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Last Updated: Saturday, 31 July, 2004, 00:44 GMT 01:44 UK
Ivorian foes clinch peace deal
Rebel fighters
Ivorian rebels must now start disarming by mid-October
Former rebels and opposition figures in Ivory Coast have signed a deal to rejoin the government.

The breakthrough came during two days of talks attended by 13 African presidents and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in Ghana's capital, Accra.

The deal sets a timetable towards the settling of the key issues - the law on citizenship and who can be president.

It also says rebels - still holding the north some 18 months after a peace deal - must start disarming by October.

On paper the agreement is strong, the BBC's Paul Welsh in Accra reports.

He says issues at the heart of the conflict - who is and who is not Ivorian and who is entitled to become the country's president - have to be changed within weeks.

Disarmament of all rebels and militias is due to begin in mid-October and there will be regular progress reports - every two weeks - on it all to the UN secretary general, the African Union and the regional body, Ecowas.

Mr Annan has made a veiled threat that Ivory Coast may face UN sanctions if the warring parties do not stick to the agreement.

But the harsh reality is that parliament has to make some of the changes and parliament is dominated by President Laurent Gbagbo's supporters, our correspondent says.

New Forces rebels

The laws - which are disputed - exclude many of his opponents.

Opposition leader Alassane Ouattara was barred from contesting two elections because the authorities claimed his family is from neighbouring Burkina Faso.

He is popular in northern Ivory Coast, where many people have family ties to Burkina Faso and Mali and which has been controlled by the New Forces rebels since the conflict broke out in September 2002.

There have been apparent breakthroughs like this before, not least the original peace deal signed eighteen months ago in France which has struggled to survive, our correspondent says.

Some 4,000 French peacekeepers are monitoring the ceasefire line across the middle of the country, with some 6,000 more UN troops being deployed.

Elections are due next year.

The BBC's Paul Welsh
"Nationalism is at the heart of this country's conflict"


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