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 Saturday, 25 January, 2003, 12:54 GMT
Chirac tells Ivorians 'make peace work'
President Chirac of France with Laurent Gbagbo on Friday
Chirac hopes Gbagbo will accept the peace deal
France's President, Jacques Chirac, has opened a summit on resolving Ivory Coast's civil war by urging delegates to make a peace plan work on the ground.

"I call on all leaders of the Ivorian political class to turn the promises of this agreement into a daily reality," he told West African leaders and international representatives at the meeting in Paris.

The plan - reached after nine days of talks behind closed doors near the French capital - has still not been accepted by the Ivorian President, Laurent Gbagbo.

The draft deal, hammered out by the main political parties and the three rebel groups, would force Mr Gbagbo to hand over some of his power and agree to constitutional changes.

'Best chance'

"We are here to bear witness to Ivory Coast of our solidarity and to help it find the paths to reconciliation, civil peace and recovery," Mr Chirac said.

"Our conference must today approve the measures set out in the accord, gather the support of the international community and also the support that each of us can bring to guarantee that the agreement is scrupulously put into effect," he said.

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Under the deal, all the political parties and the rebels will take part in a new national reconciliation government, where a new prime minister will take on most of the government's powers.

The rebels will be forced to give up their arms. The plan also urges the creation of an international surveillance committee to ensure the accord is respected.

The BBC's Paul Welsh in Paris says this is the best chance of peace that there has been in Ivory Coast since the war began and it leaves the president in place.

Gbagbo reluctant

Our correspondent says the participants are keen not to reward those who took up arms to try to overthrow a government because they are looking for stability in Africa.

But he says Mr Gbagbo has been showing signs of being reluctant to accept the deal, which would see a reduction in his powers.

On Friday, Mr Gbagbo left key hour-long talks with Mr Chirac smiling and blowing kisses, but would not reveal what was discussed.

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

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

Talks in Paris
Paris decided to mediate after the failure of talks in Lome, Togo

But he says political bickering which hampered and then killed the West African peace process is showing its face again.

France - the former colonial power which has more than 2,000 troops.

Our correspondent says the French - who have worked wonders getting the peace process this far - say they have no reason to be pessimistic about the chances of a real deal in Paris.

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24 Jan 03 | Africa
24 Jan 03 | Africa
22 Jan 03 | Africa
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