Côte d'Ivoire

Côte d'Ivoire: French soldiers and rebels clash again

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ABIDJAN, 22 January (IRIN) - French soldiers and unidentified rebels clashed in the western Ivorian town of Duekoue on Tuesday, leaving two French soldiers wounded, the French army spokesman, Lt-Col Ange-Antoine Lecia told IRIN on Wednesday. Lecia, who said the skirmish was light and lasted about 10 minutes, estimated that about 10 rebels were "put out of service". He could not say to which rebel group the fighters belonged to.
Two fighting groups emerged in western Cote d'Ivoire in late November. They have clashed several times with French and Ivorian soldiers. The two, the Justice and Peace Movement and the Ivorian Popular Movement of Great-West (MPIGO), had however signed a ceasefire last week. Lecia said the armed elements, who were small in number, acted more like "bandits" without any command. The situation on the ground in the area was a "bit confused", he told IRIN.

Tuesday's clash was the second since the beginning of round-table discussions in Paris. The discussions, which started on 15 January, were expected to end on Friday. According to news organisations, the major Ivorian political parties and the three rebel groups had agreed in principle to modify some aspects of the Ivorian constitution and other political aspects that, according to opposition parties and rebel groups, form the basis of the crisis.

The round-table talks were expected to be followed on Saturday and Sunday by a meeting of the West African heads of state and other high level officials. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is expected to attend the conference to be held in Paris, as well as Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo

In Cote d'Ivoire, the UN Humanitarian Envoy, Carolyn McAskie concluded on Tuesday a visit to some key towns affected by the conflict. McAskie visited the western towns of Daloa and Guiglo where some 6,000 Liberian refugees live in the Nicla refugee camp. McAskie, who is the deputy emergency relief coordinator of the UN system, was expected to meet Gbagbo later in Abidjan. She is also due to travel to neighbouring countries early next week.

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