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SLUG: 2-296330 Ivory Coast/Talks (L)









INTRO: Ivory Coast rebels say they are ready to resume peace talks with the government. The talks, which have been on hold in Togo since Saturday, seek to end a seven-week-old rebellion. V-O-A's Luis Ramirez reports from Abidjan.

TEXT: On Monday, rebel officials said they were willing to resume negotiations at any time, although they did not specify when.

The statement came after the rebels met with the chief mediator, Togolese President Ngassingbe Eyadema, at his palace in Togo's capital, Lome. /// OPT /// Togolese officials say the leader worked to persuade the insurgents to continue the negotiations, which began October 30th. /// END OPT ///

Insurgents on Saturday announced they were temporarily suspending negotiations, following reports that government forces had arrested and killed the brother of one of their leaders in Abidjan last week. They accused the government of President Laurent Gbagbo of spreading terror in Ivory Coast, even while peace negotiations were under way.

The government issued a statement condemning the killing, but at the same time accused the rebels of carrying out executions in the areas they control.

As part of his effort to convince the rebels to resume talks, Mr. Eyadema told the insurgents on Monday he would call on the Gbagbo government to avoid carrying out executions while negotiations are going on.

No face-to-face meetings were scheduled Monday between the rebel and government delegations.

Despite offering assurances that they would resume negotiations, five of the rebels, including the leaders of the delegation, left the scene of the talks at Lome, and returned to the insurgent stronghold in the central Ivory Coast city of Bouake on Monday.

/// REST OPT ///

A cease-fire secured by hundreds of French troops has prevented new fighting for the past three weeks. The slow pace of negotiations and the growing uncertainty over the outcome of the talks is raising concerns among some Ivorians that hostilities may break out again.

Both the government and rebels have accused each other of making preparations to re-launch attacks.

The conflict in Ivory Coast broke out on September 19th, when renegade soldiers attacked Abidjan and other cities. The rebels are in control of much of the center and north of the country, and are demanding President Gbagbo's resignation.

Hundreds of people were killed in the early weeks of the insurrection, and thousands more have been displaced. (Signed)


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