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Supporters of Ivory Coast President Protest Recommend Suspension of Parliament

16 January 2006

Angry supporters of Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo have taken to the streets in Abidjan to protest the recommendation by international mediators to dissolve parliament. The recently appointed transitional government is calling for calm, but pro-Gbagbo militants say they are planning more demonstrations.

Beginning early Monday morning, militant supporters of Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo raised barricades and blocked traffic in the Abidjan neighborhood known as Riviera.

The area is home to the new headquarters of the United Nations peacekeeping mission, as well as several embassies and the hotel where the International Working Group on Ivory Coast met Sunday.

In a statement read at the end of the meeting, the group recommended not extending the mandate of the country's National Assembly, which expired in December.

The recommendation has been met with angry reactions by supporters of the president, whose party and its allies dominate the body.

We're in the streets, said one protester manning a barricade in Riviera. We're not moving. As long as this decision holds, he said, we'll be in the streets.

By early afternoon, pro-Gbagbo militants had taken over key intersections throughout the city, erecting more barricades and burning tires.

The war-divided country's newly appointed government of transition is calling for calm.

Interior minister Joseph Dja Ble, in a statement broadcast on state television, said the decision of the International Working Group was a recommendation and did not mean parliament had been dissolved.

However, leaders of the movement known as the Young Patriots were meeting in the early afternoon Monday. One leader, Toure Moussa, said more protests would follow.

"We are surprised, and I am very, very surprised by the way they are dealing with the Ivorian crisis," said Moussa. "We are preparing to do more than what has happened this morning. That's what we are preparing."

Several vehicles belonging to the U.N. peacekeeping mission were attacked Sunday and more than 100 angry supporters of the president attempted to march to the heavily guarded hotel where the International Working Group was meeting. They were turned back by security forces.

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