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Last Updated: Friday, 28 November, 2003, 14:01 GMT
Plea to end Ivorian 'nightmare'
President Laurent Gbagbo, at a ceremony for those killed during the war
Gbagbo called the rebellion a 'rejection of democracy'
Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo has urged rebels to lay down their weapons so peace and unity can return.

He was speaking in a national address after weeks of intense diplomatic activity aimed at reducing tensions in the world's largest cocoa producer.

However, he did not mention the rebel accusation that he was not respecting the terms of a peace accord.

The rebel New Forces pulled out of a power-sharing government intended to end months of fighting in September.

The New Forces say they will not disarm until Mr Gbagbo respects an agreement over who should nominate the key ministers of security and the interior.

'Child mentality'

"Disarmament means the liberation of the occupied areas, the redeployment of public services and the resumption of economic, social, political and cultural life throughout the national territory," Mr Gbagbo said.

However, his tone was far from being conciliatory, with the September 2002 uprising described as a "rejection of democracy".

He also referred to the rebels as "children", implying that they did not know how to withdraw from their negotiating positions.

"Children, the adage says, know how to climb a tree but they do not know how to come down from there," he said.

"We must help our brothers and our children who took up arms against the fatherland to put an end to the human distress in the occupied areas and to free Ivory Coast from this nightmare."

Cocoa clashes

The rebels accuse Mr Gbagbo, who came to power in elections organised by the military in which key opposition leader Alassane Ouattara was excluded, of discriminating against northerners and Muslims.

They hold the north, while Mr Gbagbo is in control of the largely Christian and animist south.

Some 4,000 French troops are currently monitoring the ceasefire between the government and rebels in Ivory Coast, along with 1,500 peacekeepers from the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas).

This week, lobby group Human Rights Watch accused pro-government militia of killing and torturing civilians despite the presence of international peacekeepers.

In another sign of rising ethnic tension, a policeman and three other people have been killed in clashes over prime cocoa-growing land not far from Mr Gbagbo's home village of Mama in the south-west.

A police spokesman man told Reuters news agency that the three were ethnic Betes from the south who were killed by northerners and immigrants from Burkina Faso, who form most of the labour force on Ivory Coast's cocoa farms.


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