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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 November, 2003, 12:01 GMT
Ivory Coast secession fears grow
Rebels
The rebels refuse to disarm saying President Gbagbo is flouting the accord
An appeal for investment in Ivory Coast's rebel-controlled north is prompting fears of a secession.

At the end of a conference, the rebel New Forces called on financial bodies and non-governmental agencies to help fund health and development programmes.

But newspapers in Abidjan says this is a sign the rebels are advancing plans to split completely from the south.

President Laurent Gbagbo has warned that any secession moves could trigger a return to civil war.

The four-day forum, held in the rebel-stronghold of Bouake to tackle growing poverty in the north, ended with a request for donors to come back to the north and help them.

Secession

In September, the rebels abandoned a unity government set up as part of the Marcoussis peace accord, accusing President Gbagbo of failing to give them key ministries.

President Laurent Gbagbo
The rebels do not trust President Gbagbo
This heightened tension between the two sides.

A senior rebel official, Louis Dakoury-Tabley, was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying: "Those who speak of secession are from now on right because we no longer expect anything from Marcoussis."

The cocoa-based economy was at one time a model of prosperity for the region but has been decimated by violence in recent years - much of it directed at northerners and immigrants.

Talks

A summit of West African leaders in Ghana, aimed at reviving the Ivorian peace process, ended on Tuesday with a call for the current military mission from the West African regional body, Ecowas, in Ivory Coast to be converted into a larger UN peacekeeping force.

At the end of the meeting the leaders issued in a statement urging the UN Security Council "to consider increasing the strength of the Ecowas mission and transform it into a UN peacekeeping force".

The fragile peace is enforced by the some 4,000 French and Ecowas troops, overseeing the ceasefire line.

The summit statement also said the leaders agreed to send 80 extra police to guarantee the security of members of the power-sharing government.

Rebel ministers had previously complained that they were unable to work safely.

On Wednesday, rebels announced they had foiled a plot to kill their leader, Reuters reported.

Rebel official Amadou Kone told a news conference in Bouake that two members of a militia loyal to President Laurent Gbagbo had been arrested.




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