SLUG: 2-296178 Ivory Coast / Talks (Update)
TITLE= IVORY COAST-TALKS UPDATE (L)
BYLINE= LUIS RAMIREZ
///EDS: UPDATES CR 2-296153 WITH LITTLE PROGRESS IN TALKS///
INTRO: There were few signs of progress at the end of the first day of a
new round of peace negotiations aimed at ending a seven-week-old
rebellion in Ivory Coast. V-O-A's Luis Ramirez reports from Abidjan.
TEXT: Mediators brokering talks in Togo left the negotiations Wednesday
with little progress to report, but they said the dialogue would continue.
The new round of talks between an Ivory Coast government delegation and
rebels resumed on Wednesday when both sides began touching on the most
critical of the issues. These include the rebels' demands for Ivorian
President Laurent Gbagbo's resignation and new elections. The government
is demanding that the rebels disarm immediately.
Both sides have repeatedly said they are not willing to compromise on
the key issues. Both have vowed to resume fighting if the talks in Togo
fail. Hostilities have been on hold for nearly three weeks since a
cease-fire went into effect.
The two delegations reached a partial agreement during the first round
of talks last week in which the government promised among other things
- to push through laws granting amnesty to renegade soldiers. The
insurgents agreed to allow the transit of humanitarian supplies and
personnel through rebel-held areas.
Despite the agreement, rebels threatened to pull out of talks if the
government did not agree to hear all of their demands. Resumption of the
talks was twice postponed before the rebels returned to the table
Wednesday, after mediators assured them that their grievances would be
The rebel and government delegations spent much of the day Wednesday in
consultations with the chief mediator, Togolese President Gnassingbe
Eyadema. Togolese officials say the president called on both sides to be
Defense ministers of several West African nations met in the Nigerian
capital, Abuja, Wednesday, to plan the deployment of more than 1,000
West African peacekeepers in Ivory Coast in the coming days.
Hundreds of people have been killed and thousands more displaced since fighting
broke out in Ivory Coast on September 19th.
///REST OPT/// West African governments have been pushing both sides to
negotiate an end to the conflict quickly, fearing the hostilities may
destabilize the region.
Ivory Coast is an economic anchor in the region, and a host to millions
of impoverished immigrant workers from neighboring countries.
The fighting is threatening to slow the harvest and transport of cocoa
the country's main export. Ivory Coast supplies more than 40 percent of
the world's cocoa making it the world's top producer of the beans used
to make chocolate.
Analysts say news of snags at the ongoing peace talks caused cocoa
prices to climb considerably on world markets Wednesday. (Signed)
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