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WAfrican leaders attempt to steer Ivory Coast to peace

11th November 2003

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A mini-summit gathering half a dozen west African heads of state was set to open in the Ghanaian capital today aimed at reviving the peace process in Ivory Coast, paralysed by a prolonged power struggle that has destroyed the economy of the world's top cocoa producer.

Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo was to arrive in Accra this morning, along with presidents Mathieu Kerekou of Benin, Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso, Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, Niger's Mamadou Tandja and Togo's Gnassingbe Eyadema, officials said.

The special envoy to Ivory Coast of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Albert Tevoedjre of Benin, was also due to arrive just before the start of the one-day summit billed as a review of the security situation in the divided country.

The summit, held in a top hotel, was due to open at 12:30 GMT.

Absent from the meet organized by Ghanaian President John Kufuor, current head of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), will be Alassane Ouattara, former prime minister and leader of the main opposition party RDR, a top party source said in Abidjan yesterday.

Ex-rebels known as the New Forces, who control the north of the country, said that Guillaume Soro, a leader of last year's rebellion and now communications minister, still planned to attend.

Ivory Coast, once a beacon of stability in west Africa and a model of African economic development, remains in a morass of poverty, crime and disease despite the creation of a national reconciliation government that marked the official end in July of the civil war that erupted September 19, 2002.

The rebels withdrew from the unity government in September, joining all political parties but Gbagbo's National Unity Party in charging that the president was thwarting implementation of the peace agreement.

Today's summit seeks to enable the rebels to rejoin the government, diplomats said, as well as to disarm the factions still armed to the teeth four months after they jointly declared an end to hostilities.

A further goal is a free, fair and transparent presidential election in October 2005 in Ivory Coast. – Sapa-AFP.
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