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 Wednesday, 8 January, 2003, 15:59 GMT
Western rebels back Ivorian truce
Checkpoint manned by civilians north of Abidjan
Ivory Coast has been divided in two by the rebellion
The leader of rebel groups in western Ivory Coast says he is ready to sign a ceasefire after meeting the French ambassador.

Felix Doh said he would also attend peace talks in Paris later this month.

We have committed to immediately halt hostilities

Sergeant Felix Doh
The main rebel Ivory Coast Patriotic Movement (MPCI) signed a ceasefire in October but fighting resumed in the west a month later when two new rebel groups emerged.

The MPCI has controlled the largely Muslim north of the world's biggest cocoa producer since 19 September.

Troops from former colonial power France are monitoring the ceasefire but have recently clashed with Mr Doh's forces in the west.

No UN force

"We have committed to immediately halt hostilities," rebel commander Sergeant Felix Doh said after a meeting with the French ambassador in the western town of Duekoue.

Earlier, the United States dismissed proposals to put peacekeeping operations in the volatile Ivory Coast under United Nations control.

West African leaders drew up the plan earlier this week in the hope of restoring order to the country, wracked by violence since a rebel uprising began against the government in September.

But US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Washington did not believe a UN force was "appropriate" at this time.

US officials also said they believed that rebels in the west of the country were being supported by "elements" in Liberia.

The Ivorian Government has repeatedly accused Liberia of involvement in the conflict.

Last week it alleged that Liberian mercenaries had been attacking villages.

'French bullets'

The charges have been vehemently denied by Liberia, currently under UN sanctions for its perceived support of former rebels in Sierra Leone who waged a war until January 2002.

An Ivorian rebel
The rebels want to overthrow President Gbagbo

A spokesman for the main group, Ivory Coast Patriotic Movement (MPCI) has also declared that recent clashes between French forces and rebels "seriously jeopardised" the talks, although he said the movement would send a delegation to Paris.

The French said they had killed some 30 rebels after being attacked near Duekoue on Monday, while nine of their men were wounded.

"There was a sort of joy and satisfaction when they spoke of the deaths of young Ivorians killed by French bullets," MPCI spokesman Sidiki Konate told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

He said that the MPCI would still go to the Paris talks but said the French must respect the western rebel groups, if they were to be credible mediators.


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