Ivory Coast Signs Truce With 2 Rebel Groups

From Reuters

Ivory Coast's government and leaders of two rebel factions signed a truce Monday here in Togo's capital ahead of peace talks planned for this week in Paris, witnesses said.

After the signing, Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo said he was willing to grant amnesty to rebels but would not agree to early elections. Speaking on French radio after his government signed the truce with leaders of two factions based in his nation's west, Gbagbo said he expected the Paris talks to succeed.

"I expect the end of the war," he said on France Info radio, speaking by telephone from Abidjan, Ivory Coast's principal city. "I expect all our friends, led by France, will help us end the situation of hostility."

France is Ivory Coast's former colonial ruler and has committed 2,500 troops to help stop the rebel advance. The conflict has killed hundreds of people.

Asked if he could offer an amnesty at the talks, Gbagbo said: "Yes. I think this would be unjust, but this injustice will have to be accepted if we want peace."

Elections cannot be held before 2005 because the "constitution doesn't allow me to organize an early general election," Gbagbo said.

Ivory Coast's crisis erupted Sept. 19 when a failed coup by disgruntled soldiers led to fighting that has ethnically split the West African nation. Rebels holding the largely Muslim north signed a cease-fire in mid-October, but the two western-based groups that signed the truce Monday sprang up in November.

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