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 Sunday, 5 January, 2003, 15:15 GMT
Ivorians cast doubt on peace deal
Pro-Gbagbo protesters
The conflict has deeply divided Ivory Coast
The government and the main rebels in Ivory Coast have both said they do not trust the other side to honour their commitment to a French deal aimed at ending a three-month civil war.

We can be allowed serious doubts about the sincerity of the MPCI rebels

Presidential aide
However, the deal was boosted on Sunday by the announcement that one of the smaller rebel groups, the Movement for Justice and Peace (MJP) which is strong in the west of Ivory Coast, is prepared to take part in peace talks later this month in Paris.

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin ended a whirlwind tour on Saturday with a promise from Laurent Gbagbo's government and the Patriotic Movement (MPCI) rebels to respect the fragile truce and attend talks.

About 2,500 French troops are currently in Ivory Coast, enforcing the uneasy ceasefire between the government and rebels of the MPCI, which controls about half the country.

A West African peacekeeping force also arrived on Friday.

Mistrust

Felix Doh, of the MJP, has said he is prepared to take part in the peace process, provided he is formally invited.

We know very well that Mr Laurent Gbagbo will not keep his word

MPCI spokesman
The two main factions have already confirmed they will participate - but the deep mistrust between them has not been dispelled.

"While we are happy that all the Ivorian parties have subscribed to the ceasefire and to the forthcoming meeting in Paris, we can be allowed serious doubts about the sincerity of the MPCI rebels in respecting their promises," said Toussaint Alain, an aide to President Gbagbo.

Defence Minister Kadet Bertin said he had given "strict verbal orders" to his troops to respect the ceasefire, AFP reported.

MPCI rebel
The rebels want to overthrow President Gbagbo
A spokesman for the MPCI, Antoine Beugre, said: "We're waiting to see one another's reaction, and to see if the [government] troops can respect the ceasefire.

"We know very well that Mr Laurent Gbagbo will not keep his word," he was quoted by Reuters as saying.

All the rebel factions currently active in Ivory Coast are demanding the removal of Mr Gbagbo.

Cocoa disruption

Mr de Villepin said the Paris summit would take place on 15 January and involve all Ivory Coast's political forces, as well as the northern rebels.

He warned all sides in the conflict that France - the former colonial power - would be keeping a strict watch on Ivory Coast to ensure that they adhered to their promises.

Ivory Coast was traditionally one of Africa's more stable countries until the conflict erupted out of a failed coup last September.

It is the world's largest cocoa producer and cocoa prices reached an 11-week high in Friday trading, amid continuing concerns about disruption to supplies.


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03 Jan 03 | Africa
02 Jan 03 | Africa
01 Jan 03 | Africa
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