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SLUG: 2-322925 Ivory Coast Fighting (L-O)
TITLE=IVORY COAST FIGHTING (L-O)
HEADLINE: Clashes Reported in Western Ivory Coast
INTRO: The United Nations is expanding the security zone in western Ivory Coast, after rebels say they were attacked by youths supporting President Laurent Gbagbo. Gabi Menezes reports from VOA's West Africa bureau in Abidjan on what is the first fighting since government air strikes broke a cease-fire in November.
TEXT: One peacekeeper was wounded in fighting Monday in western Ivory Coast when groups of youths attacked rebel positions.
U.N. spokesman Amadou Toure said peacekeepers intervened in the village of Logouale to restore order.
Mr. Toure said peace keepers detained 87 suspects accused of attacking rebel positions. U.N. troops along with French soldiers are monitoring a cease-fire in divided Ivory Coast. They have boosted troop numbers in the west.
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"We are trying to expand the security zone to try and prevent such actions, such attacks, because you know it could put the whole peace process into jeopardy if we had repeated incidents like the one we had yesterday."
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Mr. Toure said that the young men would be handed over to authorities in government-controlled territory on the other side of the demilitarized area, known as the Zone of Trust, where the U.N. troops are stationed.
A group called the Ivorian Movement for the Liberation of the West of Ivory Coast has claimed responsibility for the attack.
/// OPT /// The spokesperson for the group, calling himself Commander Goh, has portrayed his group as a local movement and says they do not have any links to Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo.
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Mr. Goh told VOA that the local population is sick of the rebels and tried to chase them out of the village of Logouale. He said that his group will not rest until the French and the rebels have left the West. /// END OPT ///
The government, in an armed forces statement, denied any link to the movement.
/// OPT /// But rebels insist that the men who attacked them were armed and supported by President Gbagbo. A spokesman for the rebels, Sidiki Konate, said that this is the second major violation since the cease-fire was established.
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"We think for us there is no need any more to continue to go for discussion, to continue to go to mediation, if the mediators cannot tell the truth to Mr. Laurent Gbagbo ."
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The African Union named South African President Thabo Mbeki to mediate a stable peace in the country, following hostilities in November. Rebels have said that they have not been impressed with Mr. Mbeki's mediation. A spokesperson for the South African president, Bheki Khumalo, said that he was not discouraged by the outbreak of fighting, and that mediation has been fruitful.
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"I think that you will indeed have one or two instances of violence in the Cote d'Ivoire. I do not think they will have the potential to derail the peace process."
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The Ivory Coast has been split into a government controlled south and a rebel held north since a failed coup against Laurent Gbagbo in 2002, led to a civil war. The U.N. mission was established in April to try to implement the cease-fire that has been continually violated by both parties. (SIGNED)
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