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Last Updated: Friday, 15 September 2006, 16:56 GMT 17:56 UK
Ivorians rampage over toxic waste
Women cover their faces as they walk in Abidjan
Residents complain of the smell of rotting eggs
Youths angered by a toxic waste scandal in Ivory Coast's main city Abidjan have rioted, beating up a minister and burning an official's home.

Transport Minister Innocent Anaky Kobenan was dragged from his car, while the house of port director Marcel Gossio was torched, witnesses say.

The two men are among those accused of responsibility for dumping the waste, which has killed seven people.

The prime minister says the clean-up operation will start on Sunday.

Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny said a deal had been signed with French firm Seche to work in 11 sites across the city.

I'm feeling very bad in the throat and I have headaches and I cannot breathe properly
Abidjan resident

A Seche spokesman told the AFP news agency he hoped that the sites would be declared safe within a fortnight but it would take several weeks to finish the operation.

Some 26,000 Abidjan residents have sought medical treatment, complaining of symptoms such as headaches, vomiting and breathing difficulties.

The cabinet resigned over the scandal last week but Mr Banny said he would name a new cabinet shortly.

The new list was originally expected last week but opposition groups and rebels who control the north have refused to rejoin the power-sharing government, tasked with ending the country's division.

Meanwhile, President Laurent Gbagbo has refused to attend next week's UN summit on Ivory Coast, or send a delegation, accusing the international community of being biased against him.

Arrests

"The protesters burned his [Minister Kobenan's] car. He is seriously injured," said Joel N'Guessan, the vice-president of Mr Kobenan's opposition MFA party.

His wife was also injured, party officials say.

He had been on his way to see his brother's body in the mortuary.

Abidjan toxic waste protester in front of burning barricades
Protesters blamed the transport minister for the dumped waste

The port director has been suspended as part of the investigation into the scandal and on Friday, Mr Gossio's house was attacked, his assistant told the Reuters news agency.

"They took everything and burned it down," said the man, who did not want to be named.

The protesters have also set up burning barricades in the city's Akouedo district.

Ivory Coast's institutions were divided between the various political formations under a peace deal.

While President Gbagbo's supporters have blamed Mr Kobenan and transport ministry officials for the scandal, he has accused, among others, the director of the port, which is controlled by Mr Gbagbo's FPI party.

In a speech on Thursday, the prime minister said that a judicial inquiry had been launched into who was responsible for dumping the 400 metric tons of toxic liquid, which came from a ship.

Mr Banny said that eight people had been arrested and top officials such as Mr Gossio suspended from office.

The prime minister also confirmed that the liquid was not radioactive and said that the city's drinking water was not contaminated.

'Slops'

Residents have been complaining of a smell of rotten eggs on the streets.

The UN has set up an inter-agency team and the Ivorians have recruited extra medical staff to deal with the crisis.

The waste came from the ship, the Probo Koala, and has been found in at least 11 open-air sites around Abidjan.

The company which owns the ship, Trafigura Beheer BV, says it is extremely concerned and has sent oil and mining experts to Abidjan to help the authorities.

It says it informed the authorities and handed over discharges from washing out its oil tanks with caustic soda - known as slops - to a certified local company, Compagnie Tommy.


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