From: Patrick A. Firempong, GNA Special Correspondent, Abidjan
Abidjan, March 24, GNA - President John Agyekum Kufuor on Wednesday appealed to the government and opposition political parties in the Ivory Coast to show concern for their people and desist from acts that would delay the democratic process currently underway in that country. "Our plea to the parties is that they should show concern for the good people of Cote D'Ivoire so that nothing is done to delay the democratic process. Our hope and message is that all the parties will comport themselves with the necessary concern for the Ivorians," he said.
President Kufuor who is also the Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), was speaking to journalists in Abidjan, after a four-and-a-half hour meeting with representatives of seven political parties on that country's political crisis. He had earlier, on his arrival, held closed door meeting with President Laurent Gbagbo.
President Kufuor said the meeting was necessary, following reports that some Ivorian political parties had planned to stage a protest march in Abidjan, the commercial capital on Thursday, March 25. He said President Gbagbo had issued a decree banning all protest marches and that ECOWAS was also concerned that should the march proceed, there might be an upset that would not augur well for the country.
President Kufuor said the United Nations (UN) Security Council was expected to meet in New York on Thursday, March 25 to debate on the security situation in the Ivory Coast.
The Council had decided about a month ago to deploy about 6,000 troops in the country to enable its Transitional Government function effectively while the political parties also prepare for democratic elections in October 2005.
The ECOWAS Chairman said the UN Security Council on March 24 appointed a Senegalese Commander, General Fall, for the Peace Force that is expected to deploy next month.
"With these developments, if there should be any untoward clash in the protest tomorrow (Thursday, March 25), it would affect the security and delay the deployment of the troops as well as the return to democratic rule next year", he said.
President Kufuor said he had fruitful discussions with the seven political parties' representatives, therefore, nothing should be done to jeopardise the peace march.
Most of the representatives to the meeting refused to talk to journalists. However, Mr Alphonse Djedje Mady, a spokesman for the PDCI party, said the protest march would go on as planned.
He said the New Forces would organise their protest march in their occupied territories.
Prime Minister Seydou Diarra and former President Konan Bedie participated in the meeting.