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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 February 2006, 21:42 GMT
Ivory Coast holds historic summit
Rebel leader Guillaume Soro (l) and opposition leader Alassane Ouattara (r)
Soro (l) and Ouattara (r) say President Gbagbo discriminates against northerners
Key talks between Ivory Coast political and rebel leaders have been held in the capital, Yamoussoukro, after the arrival of rebel leader Guillaume Soro.

Mr Soro agreed with President Laurent Gbagbo and two civilian opposition leaders, Henri Konan Bedie and Alassane Ouattara, to hold further discussions.

The four have not met on Ivorian soil since a rebellion split the country.

The meeting was organised by PM Charles Konan Banny to get them to sit down and work out their differences.

Mr Banny said the talks had been good, and this should give hope for Ivorians.

Mr Soro said progress had been made and would continue to be made until peace arrived.

He was transported to the capital on board a French military helicopter from his base in Bouake 100km to the north.

He had cited security concerns for his refusal to attend the talks.

He was appointed last year and tasked with organising elections by the end of October.

'Not safe'

The meeting, which lasted only four hours, produced a joint communique which talked of a new found trust among the political rivals present.

The four leaders agreed in principle to hold more high-level meetings to iron out Ivory Coast's numerous problems.

It was also decided that the military wing of the New Forces rebels and the armed forces loyal to President Gbagbo will meet.

They will discuss a new schedule for the disbanding of the militias who support President Gbagbo and the disarming of the New Forces.

Mr Soro delayed his arrival because he was unhappy about the presence of the presidential guard at the talks.

A senior rebel New Forces official told the BBC that they would not be safe if the presidential guard were present.

Mr Gbagbo, former President Konan Bedie and Mr Ouattara have been vying for power for over 10 years.

The leaders have met several times in peace summits over the last three years - but never before on Ivorian soil.

The civil war has hurt the reputation, stability and economy of a country once known as the "African miracle", says the BBC's James Copnall in Yamoussoukro.

Some 10,000 French and UN peacekeepers are monitoring a buffer zone between loyalist and rebel forces.


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