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Tuesday, 11 February, 2003, 06:18 GMT
Ivory Coast appoints new prime minister
Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo (right) talks to Prime Minister Seydou Diarra
It is hoped Diarra's appointment (l) will appease the rebels

Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo has officially appointed Seydou Diarra as the new prime minister in a move West African mediators described as the first concrete application of the Marcoussis peace accord.

Woman Ivory Coast rebel holding gun
The rebels are hoping for key positions in the defence and interior ministries
Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) President John Kufuor of Ghana said after the talks in the Ivorian capital, Yamoussoukro, that Mr Diarra's appointment was important because weeks after the Marcoussis accord people were disturbed not to see its implementation.

The rebels, who control the north and much of the west of Ivory Coast, have threatened to march on the south coast seat of power, Abidjan, if Mr Gbagbo does not apply the accord by Friday.

They declined an invitation to attend the summit on Monday, saying they were not prepared to renegotiate what had already been agreed in Paris.

Consensus figure

As far as they are concerned, this includes them getting key ministerial posts in the defence and interior ministries.

But Mr Kufuor was hopeful that Mr Diarra's appointment might go some way to appeasing the rebels.

Seydou Diarra, a Muslim northerner who headed the country's national reconciliation forum in 2001, is widely viewed as a consensus figure who may be able to bring the country's warring factions back to peace.

At the conclusion of the summit in Yamoussoukro, Mr Gbagbo formally asked him to begin composing the new national reconciliation government.

But a little ominously, the president told his new prime minister "I tried to read your first draft but found it difficult to cipher your illegible handwriting."

While the Marcoussis accord sets out the need for a strong prime minister in charge of government, Mr Gbagbo made it clear in a speech last Friday that he will maintain his right of veto over any decision, including the choice of new ministers.

Undeterred, Mr Diarra said he would begin consulting immediately all over the country.


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07 Feb 03 | Africa
05 Feb 03 | Africa
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