Côte d'Ivoire

Ivorian foes meet on disarmament but no deal yet

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By Peter Murphy

YAMOUSSOUKRO, July 7 (Reuters) - Government and rebels in divided Ivory Coast failed on Thursday to thrash out a disarmament timetable but President Laurent Gbagbo pledged ensure the rapid passage of laws seen as key to peace.

The world's top cocoa producer has been split in two since a failed coup in 2002 triggered civil war. Previous disarmament dates, the latest on June 27, have fallen through over political squabbling, sporadic violence and delays passing legal reforms.

Peace talks in South Africa last week revived a flagging peace process and the United Nations -- which has more than 6,000 troops in the West African state -- demanded full implementation of the latest Pretoria deal on Wednesday and threatened sanctions against those who failed to comply.

Government and rebel military chiefs, officials from the United Nations and South African mediators gathered at a conference centre in the capital Yamoussoukro on Thursday but left with little but an agreement to come back on Friday.

Officials said the two sides had created two joint commissions, one on disarmament and the other on security for rebel ministers in the government-controlled main city, Abidjan.

One rebel source said the talks had broken down over the army's wish to send its own forces to secure the rebel-held north during disarmament -- a proposal rebel delegates rejected.

"The debate is closed. We will talk again tomorrow," said the source. "The session ended with a dispute and a lack of understanding."

However, in the main city Abidjan Gbagbo promised his cabinet to see through the passage of new laws agreed under a 2003 French-sponsored peace deal.

Repeated delays passing the laws -- including less stringent nationality criteria and provision for a reformed independent electoral commission -- have been a major obstacle in previous disarmament talks with rebels refusing to disarm until the laws are passed and pro-government militia hand in their guns.

"The president of the republic referred back to the Pretoria accord to inform the cabinet that he will take measures by July 15 regarding the adoption of remaining legislative texts," a cabinet statement said.

New laws voted in by parliament several months ago were found not to conform to the original French-brokered peace deal and all sides agreed at talks in Pretoria in April to revise them, but this has not yet been done.

Periodic violence has also undermined peace efforts, the latest bout of bloodletting claiming more than 100 lives near the western town of Duekoue five weeks ago.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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