ABIDJAN, 12 February (IRIN) - Loyalist
and rebel forces clashed along Cote d'Ivoire's border with Liberia on Monday
and Tuesday, according to media reports confirmed by reliable sources in
Abidjan. The fighting occurred in Toulepleu, about 15 km inside the border,
the sources said.
The clashes coincided with Monday's summit in Yamoussoukro, the Ivorian capital, of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Contact Group on Cote d'Ivoire. The meeting was held to discuss peace and the implementation of accords concluded on 24 January by various Ivorian parties in Linas-Marcoussis, France. The accords provide for the formation of a government of national reconciliation (GNR) comprising representatives of political parties and rebel groups that participated in the Linas-Marcoussis discussions from 15 to 24 January. The government is to be headed by Seydou Elimane Diarra, whose appointment as prime minister was confirmed by President Laurent Gbagbo.
Diarra arrived in Abidjan on Tuesday to continue the arduous task of forming a cabinet that will satisfy the government, political parties and the rebels, whose participation in the GNR threatens to be a main sticking point, observers said. Government supporters and the military are opposed the inclusion of rebel representatives in the new government. The rebels, on the other hand, have threatened to march on Abidjan unless the accords are fully implemented.
The participation of a major opposition party, the Rassemblement des Republicains (RDR) also hangs in the balance. The French news agency, AFP, quotes RDR leader Alassane Ouattara as calling on his party's remaining cadres in Cote d'Ivoire to leave the country. Many senior RDR members had already left Cote d'Ivoire following the detention and disappearance of a number of party members and officials, reported by human rights organisations.
AFP reported Ouattara as saying in an interview with a French television channel, Europe 1, that the RDR ministers would not travel to Cote d'Ivoire until security conditions were satisfactory. This could delay the implementation of the Linas-Marcoussis agreement which is to be monitored by a committee that includes representatives of the bilateral partners, regional institutions and international organisations.
Members of the committee include Albert Tevoedjre, the special envoy of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan for Cote d'Ivoire, and Lansana Kouyate, special envoy of Organisation international de la Francophonie (OIF), an organisation made up of French-speaking nations.
Tevoedjre, who arrived in Abidjan on Tuesday, was appointed on 7 February. The 73-year-old diplomat has worked in the International Labour Organisation, where he was Under-Director-General from 1969 until 1974, when he became director of the International Institute for Social Studies with the rank of Deputy Director-General. He has also been a professor of political sciences in universities in France, the United States and Cote d'Ivoire.
From 1996 to 1999 Tevoedjre was minister for planning, economic rehabilitation and employment promotion in Benin, and from 1999 until his appointment as special envoy, he coordinated the Millenium for Africa Project, which operates under the aegis of the United Nations. He is also a writer.
Kouyate's appointment as special representative of the OIF was announced on Tuesday by the organisation's secretary-general, Abdou Diouf. Kouyate, a former executive secretary of ECOWAS, and a former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, was a facilitator of the Inter-Togolese dialogue. More recently he was the special envoy of the OIF Secretary-General for Cote d'Ivoire and was an observer at the Linas-Marcoussis discussions.
The monitoring committee is also to include representatives of ECOWAS, the European Union, the World Bank, IMF, G-8 and France as well as a military adviser.
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