July 7, 2005

Ivorian foes meet on disarmament but no deal yet

By Peter Murphy

YAMOUSSOUKRO (Reuters) - Government and rebels in divided
Ivory Coast failed on Thursday to thrash out a disarmament
timetable but President Laurent Gbagbo pledged ensure the rapid
passage of laws seen as key to peace.

The world's top cocoa producer has been split in two since
a failed coup in 2002 triggered civil war. Previous disarmament
dates, the latest on June 27, have fallen through over
political squabbling, sporadic violence and delays passing
legal reforms.

Peace talks in South Africa last week revived a flagging
peace process and the United Nations -- which has more than
6,000 troops in the West African state -- demanded full
implementation of the latest Pretoria deal on Wednesday and
threatened sanctions against those who failed to comply.

Government and rebel military chiefs, officials from the
United Nations and South African mediators gathered at a
conference center in the capital Yamoussoukro on Thursday but
left with little but an agreement to come back on Friday.

Officials said the two sides had created two joint
commissions, one on disarmament and the other on security for
rebel ministers in the government-controlled main city,

One rebel source said the talks had broken down over the
army's wish to send its own forces to secure the rebel-held
north during disarmament -- a proposal rebel delegates

"The debate is closed. We will talk again tomorrow," said
the source. "The session ended with a dispute and a lack of

However, in the main city Abidjan Gbagbo promised his
cabinet to see through the passage of new laws agreed under a
2003 French-sponsored peace deal.

Repeated delays passing the laws -- including less
stringent nationality criteria and provision for a reformed
independent electoral commission -- have been a major obstacle
in previous disarmament talks with rebels refusing to disarm
until the laws are passed and pro-government militia hand in
their guns.

"The president of the republic referred back to the
Pretoria accord to inform the cabinet that he will take
measures by July 15 regarding the adoption of remaining
legislative texts," a cabinet statement said.

New laws voted in by parliament several months ago were
found not to conform to the original French-brokered peace deal
and all sides agreed at talks in Pretoria in April to revise
them, but this has not yet been done.

Periodic violence has also undermined peace efforts, the
latest bout of bloodletting claiming more than 100 lives near
the western town of Duekoue five weeks ago.