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Friday, August 26, 2005

BBC NEWS | Africa | Ivory Coast rebels reject polls

BBC NEWS | Africa | Ivory Coast rebels reject polls Ivory Coast rebels reject polls
Rebels who control the north of Ivory Coast say they will not accept the elections intended to restore peace and stability, scheduled for 30 October.

The New Forces say it is impossible to hold free and fair elections within two months, and insist that President Laurent Gbagbo step down.

They refuse to disarm until pro-Gbagbo militias also lay down their weapons.

Ivory Coast, once West Africa's richest country, has been divided in two for three years.

The UN recently repeated its threat to impose sanctions on those who are blocking the peace process.

War fears

The BBC's James Copnall in the main city, Abidjan, says the New Forces' statement means they are now saying out loud what they - and the unarmed political opposition - have been saying privately for some time.

Just two months before the elections are due, the electoral roll has still not been drawn up.

In the statement, which followed six days of discussions in the rebel stronghold of Bouake, they warned they would "take their responsibilities" if Mr Gbagbo was still in power in November.

Our correspondent says the statement reinforces fears about what may happen if the elections are not held on time.

The last major outbreak of fighting was last November, when the Ivorian air force bombed Bouake.

The rebels also hit out at the mediator for the Ivory Coast conflict, South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki, saying he favoured Mr Gbagbo.

Mr Mbeki has approved Mr Gbagbo's legal reforms, which the rebels say do not go far enough to redress alleged prejudice against northerners - one of the key factors behind the rebellion.

A spokesman for Mr Gbagbo told the BBC his side had no reaction until after Mr Mbeki presented a report to the UN Security Council at the end of this month.

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