UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
COTE D IVOIRE: Talks close with no conclusive end to deadlock
ABIDJAN, 1 Jul 2004 (IRIN) - Cote d'Ivoire President Laurent Gbagbo and opposition leaders have ended their first face-to-face talks in three months but it is unclear whether three sacked ministers will return to the power-sharing government, an opposition spokesman said on Thursday.
Gbagbo and the G7 opposition alliance sat down throughout Tuesday and Wednesday to try to break the political deadlock in the world's top cocoa producing nation. The G7 has boycotted cabinet meetings since March after more than 100 of their supporters were killed during a rally.
Gbagbo responded to the walkout by firing three G7 ministers in May.
Asked whether Gbagbo would now reinstate the ministers, G7 spokesman, Alphonse Djedje-Mady said: "He is going to think about it."
One of the three ministers pushed out of the reconciliation government, was Guillaume Soro, head of the rebel New Forces. Although part of the G7 alliance, the rebels refused to attend the two days of talks saying that Gbagbo was just stalling for time while he prepared to attack their positions.
The former French colony has been split into a rebel-held north and a government-controlled south since civil war broke out in September 2002. The Linas-Marcoussis peace accord was brokered last year but key reforms have still not been implemented.
A spokesman from Gbagbo's press office said that the meeting had been positive and that "things are progressing".
The G7's Djedje-Mady said the two sides had agreed at the talks on the need for disarmament and for constitutional reforms to be approved before parliament heads into recess on 28 July.
"We agreed that the President would appeal to the FPI [ruling party] parliamentarians, all parliamentarians to vote in favour of the reforms," he said.
But areas of disagreement remain, the spokesman added. These include the transfer of power and authority to Prime Minister Seydou Diarra, the formation of the Constitutional Court, the make-up of the Independent Electoral Commission and Article 35, the clause which stipulates that presidential candidates must be Ivorian citizens born of Ivorian parents.
An Abidjan-based political analyst who used to be an advisor to Gbagbo, told IRIN that the two days of talks had allowed both sides to "test the waters".
"The president just wanted to prove to the international community that he is not opposed to dialogue, the G7 also wanted to show that it doesn't refuse dialogue", the analyst said.
The meeting came a few days after a United Nations Security Council delegation visited Cote d'Ivoire, ordering political leaders and rebels to renew dialogue and stop obstructing the peace process. The British head of the mission Emyr Jones Parry said if Linas-Marcoussis continued to be blocked, those responsible would be called to account.
Members of Cote d'Ivoire's opposition -- including the New Forces rebel movement -- are due in Libreville over the next two days to meet Gabon President Omar Bongo, who received Gbagbo at the weekend. Bongo is preparing a regional summit to deal with the Ivorian crisis. A date and venue have yet to be fixed.
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