SLUG: 2-297501 Ivory Coast / Talks (L)
TITLE=IVORY COAST / TALKS (L)
INTRO: West African leaders are meeting in Togo to find ways to end the crisis in Ivory Coast. V-O-A Correspondent Challiss McDonough reports from our west Africa bureau in Abidjan.
TEXT: The West African leaders are expected to re-evaluate the Ivorian peace process and decide whether a new approach is needed. Togolese President Gnassingbe Eyadema has been hosting peace talks since late October, but the negotiations have been deadlocked for weeks.
Mr. Eyadema is meeting in the northern Togolese town of Kara with the presidents of Senegal, Nigeria, Liberia and Ghana. Delegates from the Ivory Coast government and the main rebel group are also there.
/// BEGIN OPT /// Local media reports say Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade stopped in Ivory Coast on his way to Togo to discuss the situation with Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo. /// END OPT ///
The emergence of two new rebel groups last month has threatened the peace process. France is sending hundreds more troops to reinforce a shaky cease-fire.
The first contingent of about 150 French soldiers arrived in Abidjan Saturday and deployed to the north and west of the country on Sunday. About 500 French troops are expected to arrive this week to reinforce the roughly 12-hundred soldiers already here.
A rebel spokesman has accused the French of siding with the government in the conflict. But the French Foreign Minister has denied that allegation, telling a French newspaper France's only goal is to support the truce and provide stability in its former colony.
France has offered to host a new round of peace talks in Paris, and has invited most of the West African leaders meeting in Togo to attend.
Meanwhile, senior officials from the African Development Bank are meeting separately in the capital of Ghana to discuss the impact of the Ivory Coast crisis on the bank's operations. The bank has denied reports that it is thinking of moving its headquarters out of Abidjan. (signed)
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