[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
LANGUAGES
Somali
French
Swahili
Great Lakes
Hausa
Portuguese
Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 December, 2003, 08:44 GMT
Ivorians welcome return of rebels
Chief of staff Colonel Soumaila Bakayoko (l) and rebel leader Guillaume Soro (r) inspecting troops last month
Several key rebels have ministerial jobs
The ruling party in Ivory Coast has welcomed the return to the government of national unity of rebel New Forces ministers.

Ivorian Popular Front leader Pascal Affi Nguessan told the BBC he was "satisfied and relieved".

The northern-based rebels boycotted cabinet meetings in September in protest at President Laurent Gbagbo's refusal to implement peace accords.

Rebel spokesman Sidiki Konate said they would take up their posts on Friday.

Mr Nguessan said the rebel decision indicated a strong commitment to be part of the peace process. He said the return of former rebel ministers meant that the Ivory Coast could now aim towards a return to a normal way of life.

Elections are planned for the Ivory Coast in 2005.

About 3,800 French peacekeepers and 1,500 African troops man a buffer zone separating the two sides.

The two sides began disarming a week ago.

Divided nation

Earlier, key rebel figure Ibrahim Coulibaly, said from exile in Paris that the New Forces were about to return to the government.

He was arrested in August for allegedly plotting a coup against Mr Gbagbo but has been released on bail.

On Friday he was proclaimed as the head of the New Forces, though it is unclear if all rebel factions support him.

"All the ministers of the ex-rebellion are going to rejoin the government," he said.

"I've spoken with them by telephone. They all agree."

A mutiny last September escalated into a full-scale rebellion following discontent among northern Muslims against President Laurent Gbagbo's government, mainly drawn from the Christian and animist south.

The power-sharing government never reunited the country as both sides continued to argue over who should control the key defence and security portfolios.




RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific