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Page last updated at 22:39 GMT, Friday, 26 February 2010

Ivory Coast opposition to join new unity government

Ivory Coast opposition leader Alassane Ouattara
Key opposition figure Alassane Ouattara said protests were suspended

Opposition leaders in Ivory Coast say they are ready to join a new unity government, ending a standoff that has threatened the country's peace process.

The move follows President Laurent Gbagbo's decision to appoint a new electoral commission.

The latest crisis began two weeks ago, when President Gbagbo dissolved the previous body, accusing it of fraud and being controlled by the opposition.

President Gbagbo's decision led to deadly protests.

Early on Friday, the authorities announced a new election commission, headed by a member of the opposition and tasked with preparing long-delayed elections.

Later senior opposition leader Alassane Ouattara told reporters that opposition groups had agreed to take the 11 seats reserved for them in the 27-member cabinet.

Mr Ouattara also said the opposition was "suspending all demonstrations".

Fraud accusations

The move comes two days after a new unity government was announced - the previous one had been sacked along with the electoral commission.

Voter registration has been at the heart of the dispute.

The presidential camp accused the previous electoral commission head, Robert Mambe, of fraudulently trying to add 429,000 names to the electoral roll.

The BBC's John James in Abidjan says that for the opposition, the selection of the commission's head was key to bringing stability after protests in which at least seven people were killed.

Mr Mambe came from the opposition Democratic Party of Ivory Coast (PDCI).

However the new head, Youssouf Bakayoko, also comes from the PDCI, though he will now have to abandon all political activity.

The new government includes almost all the same names as the previous government, and the independent electoral commission remains much the same, our correspondent says.

No new date has been set for elections - although officials hope they can be held in April or May.

Polls to end the crisis sparked by the 2002 civil war have been delayed six times.



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