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01.04.2004 General News

Ivorian PM optimistic about unity

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Accra, April 1, GNA - Ivorian Prime Minister Seydou Diara on Thursday expressed the hope that political parties that quit the Government would rejoin it soon. Speaking to Journalists after closed-door discussions with ECOWAS Chairman President John Agyekum Kufuor at the Castle, Osu, Mr Diara said economic and social life had normalized after the March 25 demonstration that claimed many lives.

The meeting was to update President Kufuor on the political situation in his country, he said. Mr Diara said he also expressed gratitude to the President for his devotion to solving the Ivorian conflict.

"President Kufuor has continuously held telephone consultation with all the stakeholders in the Government to bring lasting peace to Cote d'Ivoire," he remarked. The Prime Minister said he (Diara) was also playing a critical mediation role to bring all sides to accept the implementation of the French-brokered Linas-Marcoussis Accord, which was signed in January 2003. A crucial meeting has been scheduled for next week to resolve their differences.

More than 300 demonstrators have reportedly died since March 25, when seven major political parties and three main opposition parties, who formed a coalition government in March 2003, quit the Government.

Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo has banned public demonstrations in the country, the world's top cocoa producer, until the end of April. However, the opposition groups ignored the ban and attempted to hold a rally in the city centre to press President Gbagbo to fully respect the Linas- Marcoussis Accord.

Meanwhile, the first peacekeepers of a United Nations Contingent arrived in that country on Wednesday. Thirty military officers and five civilian police officers arrived in Abidjan. More peacekeepers are expected in the next few days. Cote d'Ivoire remains split between a rebel-held, mainly Muslim North and a government-controlled, mostly Christian South.

The United Nations is preparing to deploy 6,240 peacekeepers in that country in early April. Already about 4,000 French troops and 1,400 West African soldiers have been stationed there.

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