SLUG: 2-296153 Ivory Coast / Talks (L)
TITLE=IVORY COAST / TALKS (L)
INTRO: Talks between Ivory Coast government officials and rebels were to resume Wednesday in Togo as part an effort to end a six week old rebellion. V-O-A's Luis Ramirez reports from Abidjan.
TEXT: Rebels agreed to return to negotiations Wednesday after twice postponing the resumption of talks, which are being brokered by the government of Togo and a group of West African countries.
The insurgents had threatened to pull out of negotiations unless the government agreed to hear all their demands. The rebels insist that President Laurent Gbagbo resign and that new elections be held.
The second round of talks promise to be difficult. The Ivory Coast government says it will not consider holding new elections. President Gbagbo has ruled out stepping down.
/// OPT /// The rebel delegation returned to the Togolese capital, Lome, on Tuesday after a four day trip to the insurgent stronghold of Bouake in Ivory Coast. /// END OPT ///
Rebel and government delegations consulted with Togolese President Gnassingbe Eyadema, the main mediator of the talks, early Wednesday before the scheduled start of negotiations.
Togolese officials say Mr. Eyadema is trying to salvage the negotiations by persuading both sides to discuss all of the issues, regardless how intractable the negotiators' positions may be at the outset.
Rebels and government officials reached a partial agreement last week in which the government said it would push laws granting amnesty to renegade soldiers. The insurgents agreed to open routes to allow the delivery of humanitarian supplies and services in rebel-held areas.
Ivory Coast -- the world's top producer of cocoa -- is an economic anchor in West Africa. West African governments have been pressing for a speedy solution, fearing the conflict may destabilize the region.
A number of nations in the region are currently working to assemble a multinational peacekeeping force that is to deploy in the coming weeks. The multinational force is to monitor a ceasefire that has been in place for nearly three weeks. (Signed)
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