"The government must resolve the question of identification, resolve the question of rebuilding the army, resolve the question of organising elections."

Ethnic divisions

Mass immigration to prosperous Ivory Coast since its 1960 independence from France has exacerbated ethnic divisions.

The thorny issue of distributing identity papers to many people who don't have them has torn apart previous consensus governments designed to end the conflict.

The new government includes six new ministerial appointees but leaves many portfolios unchanged from the previous unity cabinet of Charles Konan Banny, the interim prime minister.

The number of ministers was cut by three to 33.

The key defence portfolio went to a loyalist of Gbagbo's Ivorian Popular Front, Michel Amani N'Guessan, who will oversee the formation of joint forces and the removal of a buffer zone between the rebel-held north and government-controlled south.

Economy portfolio

Charles Koffi Diby became economy and finance minister. He previously held the portfolio as minister delegate on behalf of Banny, who stepped down this week to make way for Soro.

Gbagbo talks to ministers at the presidential
palace in Abidjan on Saturday [AFP]

Amadou Gon Coulibaly, an ally of northern political opposition leader Alassane Ouattara, remained agriculture minister, a powerful job in the world's top cocoa-growing state, which is also a large producer of robusta coffee and cotton.

Ivory Coast's "G7" opposition group - which includes the former ruling Democratic Party (PDCI) and Ouattara's Rally of the Republicans - welcomed the new cabinet.

"We are satisfied that a transition government has been named to bring peace and reconcile Ivorians," said G7 spokesman Alphonse Djedje Mady.

Joint force

Following the March 4 deal, brokered at Gbagbo's request by neighbouring Burkina Faso, government and rebel military chiefs agreed this week to deploy a joint force of 180 troops to start taking over the zone, patrolled by peacekeepers since 2003.

Fernand Marcel Amoussou, commander of UN peacekeepers in Ivory Coast, said on Friday the 7,000-strong force, backed by French troops, would start withdrawing on April 16.

France, whose close ties with what was once a model former colony have soured during the conflict, said a fortnight ago it would pull out 500 of its 3,500 peacekeepers after the deal.