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UN Officials Warn of Delays in Ivory Coast Peace Plan

19 June 2007

Visiting officials from the United Nations Security Council are warning of delays in the latest peace plan in divided Ivory Coast. Despite the presence of U.N. peacekeepers, the world body is playing a limited role in the implementation of Ivory Coast's latest peace agreement signed last March by President Laurent Gbagbo and northern rebel leader Guillaume Soro. VOA's Nico Colombant reports from our West Africa bureau in Dakar.

Reading from a prepared text, Peruvian Ambassador Jorge Voto-Bernales said there has been some progress since the March deal signed in Burkina Faso, but there are delays for the planned identification of undocumented Ivorians and for reorganizing a reunified army ahead of new elections.

French ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere says the United Nations is playing a limited role in Ivory Coast's peace process.

"We are ready to assist, to help," he said. "We have listened to what has been told to us. We were in a listening mood."

He told journalists the Security Council would prepare a new resolution on Ivory Coast before the end of the month. The United Nations, he said, would help certify the validity of the upcoming elections but play no role in organizing them.

A West Africa analyst with International Crisis Group, Gilles Yabi, says, despite progress, the core issues of the peace process remain unsolved.

"The relationship between Guillaume Soro and President Gbagbo seems to be holding and seems to be cordial but the key operations of identification of the population and restructuring of the armed forces which are really the most important operations in the peace plan remain to be done effectively on the ground," he said. "That means that the coming weeks and coming months will be really important and will determine the possibility of holding elections at least in the first quarter of the next year."

These elections have already been postponed twice. They were supposed to be held in October 2005. Even though Yabi believes Soro's high government position prevents renewed war between rebels and the southern army, he says there is a real threat of political violence.

"The risk of political violence remains high, especially when the key operation of identification will begin and when the electoral period will approach," he said. "It is very clear that Guillaume Soro and Laurent Gbagbo are not the only important actors on the political scene in the country. There is also the unarmed opposition."

The rebels have held on to more than half of Ivory Coast since late 2002, saying they are fighting for many undocumented northerners who are treated as second class citizens, without voting rights and constantly facing persecution from authorities.

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