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Last Updated: Monday, 4 April, 2005, 21:49 GMT 22:49 UK
UN Ivory Coast mandate extended
By James Copnall
BBC News, Abidjan

Ivorian rebel chief Guillaume Soro (l), Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo (middle), South Africa President Thabo Mbeki (right)
Mbeki hopes the major players will find a way out of the stalemate
The mandate of UN and French peacekeepers in Ivory Coast, due to come to an end at midnight on Monday, has been extended for one month.

Supporters of President Laurent Gbagbo had campaigned for the departure of soldiers from France, the former colonial power.

Ivory Coast has been in crisis since rebels seized the north of the country two-and-a-half years ago.

But the UN Security Council voted unanimously for a one-month extension.

After Resolution 1594 expires, the Security Council will decide whether to accept Secretary General Kofi Annan's requests for a year-long mandate and the reinforcement of the UN contingent with 1,200 more troops.

Clashes

Monday's resolution delays a final decision on whether the French soldiers should stay in Ivory Coast.

The French force, known as Licorne, is unpopular with parts of the Ivorian population.

Last November supporters of President Gbagbo, known as the Young Patriots, clashed with Licorne.

As many as 50 demonstrators were killed.

The Young Patriots have led an active campaign to force the French to leave.

Supporters have worn red arm bands and red flags have been tied around lamp posts along main roads in the commercial capital, Abidjan.

However, Ivory Coast's armed and unarmed opposition have been just as adamant that the French must stay.

Summit ultimatum

All of Ivory Coast's political leaders are currently in Pretoria, South Africa, for a major summit on the country's future.

Demonstrators in Ivory Coast holding up a sign calling for the French peacekeepers to go home
Supporters of the president want the French to leave
South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki, hosting the summit, says he is optimistic of finding an end to the Ivorian crisis, as rumours of a return to conflict grow.

Mr Mbeki has brought together all the major Ivorian politicians including President Laurent Gbagbo for the first time since July last year.

Mr Mbeki, the African Union mediator in the Ivorian crisis, said the leaders meeting at the presidential guesthouse in Pretoria would not leave until they found a solution.

President Gbagbo, former head of state Henri Konan Bedie, opposition leader Alassane Ouattara and rebel chief Guillaume Soro have not met since they signed the Accra Three accord nine months ago.

The failure of that agreement, along with several previous ones, indicates the size of the task facing Mr Mbeki.


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