Paris calls for progress on peace in Ivory Coast

29th March 2005, Comments 0 comments

UNITED NATIONS, March 28 (AFP) - France on Monday warned time was running out to get the Ivory Coast peace process back on track, and said it expected progress at talks in South Africa this weekend.

UNITED NATIONS, March 28 (AFP) - France on Monday warned time was running out to get the Ivory Coast peace process back on track, and said it expected progress at talks in South Africa this weekend.

South African President Thabo Mbeki will host negotiations on Sunday aimed at ending the impasse in Ivory Coast, the former French colony and world's top cocoa producer, which is split into government- and rebel-held areas.

France, which has been leading UN Security Council attention on the west African nation, hailed Mbeki's efforts on behalf of the African Union (AU) but insisted both parties had to move forward swiftly.

"For two years this country has been divided and broken down, growing poorer day by day," France's UN ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere told a council meeting.

"Despite the remarkable efforts of President Mbeki, Ivory Coast is still far from getting back on the road to reconciliation," he said. "Time is running out."

With the mandate for UN peacekeepers set to expire next Monday, the ambassador asked the council to approve a one-month extension in order to see if Mbeki can get a breakthrough - and urged all sides to get serious.

"All Ivorian parties must understand that the international community will never accept this crisis being resolved out through the use of arms," he said.

"All parties must demonstrate responsibility."

Armed militias have been on the rise amid the stalemate in the peace process, which has foundered over a host of issues, and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan last week warned the situation risked spinning "out of control."

Ivory Coast has been effectively split in two since a rebel uprising was launched in September 2002 against President Laurent Gbagbo.

Tension rose last November when government planes violated a ceasefire with strikes on rebel-held towns, sparking a wave of violence that culminated in anti-French riots in the main city of Abidjan.

South African Deputy Prime Minister Aziz Pahad, who also addressed the council, warned against jumping quickly to add more pressure in the form of sanctions and said all sides needed time to work through negotiations.

"Both the AU and the UN have an obligation to pursue the solution of the Ivorian crisis with sober minds and resist the temptation to arrive at short-term solutions that disguise the real problems," he said.

A peace accord was signed in France in January 2003 to bring rebel leaders into a unity government, and another agreement was signed in the Ghanaian capital Accra in July last year.

But key stumbling blocks remain, including a legal provision that would again block exiled opposition leader Alassane Ouattara from standing in elections scheduled for October.

Gbagbo, Ouattara and Guillaume Soro, leader of the rebel New Forces are all expected at this weekend's talks in Pretoria.

"It is important for the protagonists in this crisis to realise that the international community is losing patience with this unjustified dilly-dallying," Algerian UN ambassador Abdallah Baali told the council.

The UN's acting Ivory Coast envoy, Alan Doss, said the council should approve Annan's call to send 1,000 more UN troops but there has been opposition from the United States, which pays 27 percent of the UN peacekeeping budget.

"There is a peace to keep ... however fragile that it may appear," Doss said.

"The presence of the impartial forces is vital to preventing a complete breakdown in security."

© AFP

Subject: French News

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