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 Saturday, 25 January, 2003, 19:52 GMT
Ivory Coast peace deal clinched
President Chirac of France with Laurent Gbagbo on Friday
Chirac had urged Gbagbo to accept the agreement
Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo has accepted a peace deal to end the four-month civil war in the country.

Mr Gbagbo on Saturday named former Prime Minister Seydou Diarra to head a national unity government.

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

The plan envisages that Mr Gbagbo will cede some of his powers to the new administration.

Mr Diarra was also prime minister under military ruler Robert Guei from 1999 to 2000.

The announcement came at a summit of 11 African leaders in Paris called to give international legitimacy to the peace deal. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan also attended.

The main rebel group, the Popular Movement of Ivory Coast (MPCI), said it would hold the defence and interior ministry portfolios in the new administration.

Mr Gbagbo said the new coalition government would be formed in the coming days and would have "two essential objectives: to lift Ivory Coast out of war and to bring back prosperity".

African support

Commenting on the deal, South African President Thabo Mbeki told the BBC: "It was a good result and we hope it will mean peace".

I have just signed the decree naming Seydou Diarra as head of government. It is now his task to set up a government of national unity and present the list of government members for my signature

President Gbagbo

President Taylor of Liberia, on Ivory Coast's western border, said he was "very pleased," and President John Kufuor of Ghana, to the east, said: "It's all very positive and has everyone's support".

But French President Jacques Chirac added a note of caution, saying "there still remains a lot to do". He stressed that all the parties "must respect the rules of the game that they have accepted".

The agreement followed nine days of talks in Paris between the main Ivorian political parties and the country's three rebel groups.

Protests

Mr Gbagbo had been said to be reluctant to accept the agreement - which many in Ivory Coast says includes too may concessions to the rebels.

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

News of the deal triggered protests in Abidjan by thousands of Mr Gbagbo's supporters, who accused France of committing a constitutional coup d'etat.

The BBC's Tom McKinley reports that they wore the orange, white and green colours of the Ivorian flag.

In rebel-held Bouake there were protests over the fact that Mr Gbagbo would remain in power.

'Best chance'

French officials say that under the agreement, the new cabinet will include nine ministers - divided between supporters of the president, opposition parties and the rebel movements.

MPCI guerrilla
The rebels hold half of Ivory Coast

The government is to pave the way for new elections at an unspecified date. 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.

Our correspondent says West African leaders piled on the pressure to try to get Mr Gbagbo to accept the idea and end a war which has threatened to drag in neighbouring states.

Peace process

Mr Diarra - a northern Muslim - was a diplomat before returning to Ivory Coast in the 1980s to run a cocoa firm.

Correspondents say he won respect for bringing Ivory Coast's senior politicians together at a forum which Mr Gbagbo asked him to organise in 2001 to try to defuse ethnic tensions.

However, the forum's recommendations were never fully applied before the war broke out last September.

The main rebel force holds the mainly Muslim northern half of the country - two other rebel groups are based in the west.

All originally demanded Mr Gbagbo's resignation and fresh elections.

A ceasefire between the main rebel group and the government was signed in October. France, the former colonial power, later sent troops to monitor the uneasy truce.

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  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Paul Welsh reports from Paris
"It's the best chance there is after four months of war"

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25 Jan 03 | Africa
25 Jan 03 | Africa
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