Ivory Coast leaders sign peace deal

France welcomes the deal and says it will consider pulling out its troops.

    Some 10,000 UN and French troops are deployed in Ivory Coast [AFP]

    Under the terms of the agreement, brokered by Blaise Compaore, neighbouring Burkina Faso's president, Gbagbo and Soro pledged to relaunch a stalled voter registration and identification process to prepare for elections within 10 months - slightly later than the UN-backed deadline of October.
    French withdrawal

    The agreement called on the United Nations and the French mission in Ivory Coast, known as Licorne, to dismantle a buffer zone which they have policed between the armed opposition-held north and government south since the brief civil war.


    "The transitional government will work in a spirit of permanent dialogue and openness to other political forces to achieve the unification of Ivory Coast"

    Ivory Coast peace agreement

    Brigitte Girardin, the French aid and co-operation minister, praised the accord and said that France would consider pulling out its troops.


    She said: "I think that from now on we can envisage a retreat of the international community, no doubt gradually, but I think the conditions are there so that the Ivorians can begin to surmount their difficulties themselves."


    The peace plan envisages a line of observation posts staffed by "impartial forces", running through the centre of the current buffer zone.


    The observation posts would be halved in number every two months.


    Gbagbo, whose mandate officially expired in 2005 but has been twice-extended under UN-backed deals, has frequently denounced "foreign meddling" in Ivory Coast in the past.


    The leaders of the divided West African nation agreed to appoint a new transitional government within five weeks, in an apparent snub to Charles Konan Banny, the current premier, who was named under the UN plan to oversee disarmament and hold elections.


    The document said: "The transitional government will work in a spirit of permanent dialogue and openness to other political forces to achieve the unification of Ivory Coast."


    The international community has welcomed the talks, which began on February 5 at Gbagbo's instigation, after a string of international peace deals have foundered as government, rebel and opposition sides disputed how they should be implemented.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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