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 Friday, 24 January, 2003, 17:39 GMT
Uncertainty over Ivory Coast deal
Pro-Gbagbo demonstration at Abidjan airport
Gbagbo still has strong support in Abidjan
Ivorian President Laurent Gbago has still not publicly reacted to a peace plan to resolve the four-month civil war in Ivory Coast.

The draft agreement hammered out by the main political parties and the rebels would involve Mr Gbagbo handing over some of his power and agreeing to constitutional changes.

He left key hour-long talks with French President Jaques Chirac smiling and blowing kisses, but would not reveal what was discussed.

Mr Gbagbo is in Paris for a weekend summit of African leaders called to ratify the agreement.

The peace plan was reached after nine days of talks behind closed doors near the French capital, attended by government officials and leaders of the three main rebel groups.

DRAFT PEACE DEAL
President Gbagbo remains in power
Coalition interim government named
Non-partisan prime minister appointed
Government prepares fresh elections

The rebels say they will be included in a new national reconciliation government, and a new prime minister will take on most of the government's powers.

Election timetable

The BBC's Paul Welsh in Paris says Mr Gbagbo has been showing signs of being reluctant to accept the deal, which would see a reduction in his powers.

He says a lot now hangs on what was said between the two heads of state, and what will be said at the weekend.

The rebels have dropped their demand for Mr Gbagbo to resign and for immediate elections. They have also agreed to disarm.

President Laurent Gbagbo
No word from Gbagbo on the deal yet

The new government of national reconciliation will set the terms and dates for "credible and transparent" elections.

Political parties and rebel groups at the talks would have a role in the interim government.

The document was signed by representatives of President Gbagbo's ruling Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) party.

Our correspondent says regional leaders will pile on the pressure at this weekend's summit to try to get Mr Gbagbo to accept the idea and end a war which threatens to drag in neighbouring states.

Liberian denial

On Thursday, Ivorian Defence Minister Kadet Bertin asked France - the former colonial power - to send troops to help repel a cross-border rebel attack allegedly backed by Liberian soldiers.

Open in new window : Ivory Coast
Click here for pictures of the conflict

Mr Bertin said that after two days of heavy fighting, government forces were surrounded at the western town of Toulepleu.

France - which has more than 2,000 troops in Ivory Coast - has said it does not accept that Liberian soldiers are involved, and has indicated it will not respond positively to the request.

The Ivory Coast army says at least 29 people died in the fighting on Wednesday, including four soldiers.

"The participation of Liberian regular forces on the rebel side is... a certainty today," army spokesman Jules Yao Yao said on national television.

But Mohamed Kennet, the deputy head of protocol at the Liberian foreign ministry told the BBC's French service: "There is no member of the Liberian regular army fighting on the side of Ivorian government troops or the rebels,"

However, he said that Liberian mercenaries were indeed fighting in Ivory Coast.

"All Liberians who are in Ivory Coast fighting on the side of the army or the rebels are there of their own accord, the Liberian Government has nothing to do with these people," he said.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Paul Welsh
"We have no idea where the President stands on this deal"
  Mohammad ibn Chambas, ECWAS
"We have to work very closely with the President"

Key stories

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Analysis
See also:

24 Jan 03 | Africa
22 Jan 03 | Africa
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