June 28, 2005

South Africa warns Ivory Coast foes of sanctions

By Alain Ngono

PRETORIA (Reuters) - South Africa warned Ivory Coast'scivil war foes on Tuesday they risked sanctions if they blockedmoves toward peace, raising the stakes as the West Africannation's president and rebels met for talks.

South African President Thabo Mbeki hopes to revive a dealhe brokered in April to end the conflict in the world's topcocoa grower. The so-called Pretoria accord has been paralyzedby political squabbling and rows about disarmament.

Mbeki said the participants would go through each point inthe April deal "and take whatever decisions may be necessary inorder to take forward this peace process."

Both rebels and army chiefs in Ivory Coast failed to meet aMonday deadline for laying down their weapons, an essentialstep ahead of a presidential poll scheduled for October 30.

Their meeting adjourned late in the evening without anystatement being issued, and would continue on Wednesday, aSouth African spokeswoman for the presidency told Reuters.

Ivory Coast's President Laurent Gbagbo, rebel leaderGuillaume Soro and opposition leaders Henri Konan Bedie andAlassane Ouattara took part in the talks in Pretoria.

"In any case, the rebels do not want to take part inelections because they know they will lose," said SilvereNebout, a spokesman for Gbagbo. "The elections will take placein October as planned," he said.

South African Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad said hedid not expect any new deals but hoped to resolve existingproblems.

"The important thing is that in the (U.N.)secretary-general's report, he has made it quite clear that thepossibility of sanctions against anybody who is obstructing theprocesses of the Pretoria Agreement is a reality," Pahad said.

"This must be quite clear to the signatories that the U.N.is losing patience, too, about the non-movement on agreements."


Rebels in Ivory Coast attempted a coup in 2002 and seizedthe northern part of the former French colony. A string ofpeace deals have failed to end fighting and reunite thecountry, which has reeled between war and peace for years.

After a burst of euphoria following the April deal,frustrations have been mounting. Rebels have accused Gbagbo ofplotting to attack and the cocoa-rich west is on edge afterscores of people were massacred in ethnic violence.

Rebels say they will not disarm until pro-governmentmilitias lay down their weapons. The militias say the violencein the west proves it is not safe to give up their guns.

On Tuesday, a military spokesman for the 10,000-strong U.N.and French peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast said 22 newjeeps destined for the Ivorian armed forces and recentlyarrived by boat had been seen last week by peacekeepers atAbidjan's port.

"There was material that we think should not be brought toIvory Coast," spokesman Omar El Khadir said, adding that noweapons were found. Ivory Coast is under an arms embargo andthe incident was reported to the Security Council, he said.

In February, the Security Council tightened the embargo,authorizing peacekeepers to inspect cargo shipments withoutnotice at any port, airfield, military base or border crossing.

(Additional reporting by Gordon Bell in Cape Town, PeterMurphy in Abidjan)