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The BBC's Mark Doyle in Abidjan
"General Guei seems to have got a taste for power"
 real 28k

Friday, 11 August, 2000, 09:17 GMT 10:17 UK
Unity government for Ivory Coast
General Guei
Guei is seeking to become a civilian president
Ivory Coast's military ruler General Robert Guei and the country's four main political parties have announced they will create a government of national unity - whatever the result of the forthcoming elections to restore civilian rule.

Their statement followed a meeting on Thursday with the chairman of the Organisation of African Unity, Gnassingbe Eyadema - who is also the President of Togo - and Benin President Mathieu Kerekou.

The statement added that General Guei had reassured the two West African leaders that preparations for the transition to civilian rule were going according to plan.

Earlier, the United States had expressed "deep concern" that General Guei was planning to run for president in next month's elections as the candidate of the party he overthrew in a coup last year.
Ivory Coast - Key dates
1960 - Independence from France
Oct 95 - Presidential elections
24 Dec 99 - General Guei ousts civilian President Henri Konan Bedie in coup
28 Dec 99 - Guei says he will restore constitutional rule
4 July 00 - Hundreds of soldiers mutiny over pay
23-24 July 00 - New constitution approved by referendum
17 Sep 00 - Presidential election to be held
There is speculation that the regional leaders might decide to approve General Guei's candidacy, provided that controversial opposition leader Alassane Ouattara is also permitted to stand in the elections.

General Guei overthrew President Henri Konan Bedie in a December coup, placing Ivory Coast under military rule for the first time ever.

The general has promised to return the country to civilian rule, and initially said he had no intention of staying in power.

But on Wednesday the Democratic Party of Ivory Coast (PDCI) - which ruled the country before the coup - confirmed that the general had applied to become its presidential candidate.

Competition

General Guei will be competing directly with nine other candidates, including former President Bedie, for the PDCI nomination.

Henri Konan Bedie
Bedie: Competing with Guei for party candidacy
Mr Bedie has said he plans to return from exile in France to contest the election.

He remains nominal party president despite the coup, and retains some support within the party.

"We are not going to marry our mother [the party] to our father's killer," supporters of Mr Bedie told AFP news agency.

Concern abroad

Ivory Coast's most influential Western allies - France and the United States - have expressed concern over the general's presidential ambitions.

map of Ivory Coast
"Serious doubt would be cast on the fairness and legitimacy of the process if an individual who took power by military coup and then oversaw the elections were to turn out to be a victorious candidate," said US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.

The controversy over Mr Ouattara, whose opponents say he is not Ivorian, is further fuelling tensions in the country.

Last year, the exclusion of Mr Ouattara from a planned election sparked angry riots - and General Guei took advantage of the months of instability to stage the coup against Mr Bedie.

Alassane Ouattara
Ouattara: Will compromise deal allow him to stand?
But indications are that Mr Ouattara - candidate of the Rally of Republicans party - could once again be excluded from the elections on the grounds that he has not proved that both his parents were born in Ivory Coast.

The issue of "Ivorité" ("Ivorianness") is a pressing issue in a country where about a third of the population is of immigrant stock - and could potentially have regional repercussions.

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See also:

04 Aug 00 | Africa
Ivory Coast mutineers on trial
05 Jul 00 | Africa
Why the world watches Abidjan
25 Dec 99 | Africa
Ivory Coast's new 'Le Boss'
04 Jul 00 | Africa
General Guei calls for talks
24 Dec 99 | Media reports
Coup leader pledges democracy
08 Jan 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Ivory Coast's unexpected coup
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