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Last Updated: Monday, 12 September 2005, 09:25 GMT 10:25 UK
Ivory Coast's ex-leader returns
Supporters of Henri Konan Bedie
Mr Bedie said he was not on the campaign trail
Former Ivory Coast President Henri Konan-Bedie has returned home after a year-long exile, even though elections due in October are set to be postponed.

Mr Bedie received a rapturous welcome from his supporters at the headquarters of the former ruling Ivory Coast Democratic Party (PDCI) in Abidjan.

Security was tight - burly South African soldiers bodysearched everyone, while UN armoured vehicles stood guard.

Rebels and militias have not disarmed as planned ahead of the poll.

Mr Bedie was deposed in 1999 after 39 years of PDCI rule, sparking six years of instability in the world's largest cocoa-producer - previously West Africa's richest country.

The elections, part of a South African-brokered peace deal, were supposed to end the three-year conflict which has seen rebels control the north of the country.

'Available'

Mr Bedie is set to be the PDCI presidential candidate but the party agrees with the New Forces rebels and the United Nations that the planned date of 30 October is not possible.

He said he was not on the campaign trail but said he would be "available, as indeed I always have been, to participate in the national effort. The national effort is to find solutions for peace for our country."

Henri Konan Bedie
The 199 coup which deposed Mr Bedie sparked six years of instability
Mr Bedie said he and his party would back the sanctions the UN is threatening on those blocking the peace process.

Rather than focus on the role of political parties - criticised by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan - Mr Bedie listed a number of charges against President Laurent Gbagbo, including the killing of at least 120 opposition supporters last year.

"We have always wanted sanctions, after what has happened in Ivory Coast," he said.

"First of all there were very serious human rights violations, with deaths, exactions, kidnappings, and the events of 26 March 2004. The UN mission in Ivory Coast has investigated all this. All that is left is to impose sanctions."

Unresolved issues

But the BBC's James Copnall in Abidjan says the 71-year-old did not give a vintage performance at a news conference.

On occasion Mr Bedie forgot the question he was meant to be answering, or took his answer off on an unpredictable path.

Map of Ivory Coast
Our correspondent says that did not diminish the enthusiasm of his supporters - women screamed for joy, while men wore shirts emblazoned with Mr Bedie's image.

Some 6,000 French troops are in Ivory Coast along with 4,000 UN troops, monitoring a buffer zone between rebel forces and the army.

There are a number of unresolved issues, with New Forces rebels refusing to co-operate with South African mediators.

They are also unhappy with legal reforms on identification, nationality and electoral laws.

The rebels and the opposition, including the PDCI, want a transition government without Mr Gbagbo to be formed, before elections can be held.




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