Côte d'Ivoire

Côte d'Ivoire: ECOWAS Contact Group meets in Lome

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LOME-ABIDJAN, 20 January (IRIN) - The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Contact Group for Côte d'Ivoire met on Monday in Lome, Togo, to review mediation efforts so far made and called on the belligerents to find a peaceful solution to the ongoing Ivorian conflict "so to preserve the entire region".
Togolese sources told IRIN the meeting was attended by the presidents of Niger, Nigeria, Ghana, Togo and Guinea-Bissau, while Mali's president, Amadou Toumani Toure, was represented by a senior official. Although not a member of the Contact Group, President Mathieu Kerekou of Benin also attended.

President Gnassingbe Eyadema, the chief mediator of the conflict, told his peers and others at the meeting that countries should keep in mind a non-aggression pact signed in Abuja, adding that "no country should serve as a rear base for any rebel movement". Prior to meeting the press, the heads of state met behind closed doors.

Meanwhile Ivorian political parties and the three rebel groups resumed talks in Paris. According to media sources in Paris, the discussions, which started last week, would center on political questions such as the holding of early presidential elections, the rebels' proposition that President Laurent Gbagbo resign, eligibility to contest elections and land ownership.

Last week, the participants debated the issue of "ivoirite" and, according to the media, had come to a consensus on the Ivorian code of nationality. The two issues were some of the causes of the current four months-old crisis. 'Ivoirite' is a term coined by former President Henri Konan Bedie to, according to him, promote the country's cultural heritage and diversity. His opponents labelled it anti-foreign and xenophobic.

In a related development a contingent of 172 Senegalese soldiers arrived in Abidjan on Saturday, as part of the West African peacekeeping force that is expected to deploy across the country to monitor the 17 October ceasefire agreement.

Military sources told IRIN on Monday that a joint Togo-Benin continent has also arrived in the country while a contingent of soldiers from Niger was due to arrive this week. Logistical support was also expected from Western countries, including the United States who had provided transport and communication equipment.

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