Withdrawal of heavy weapons begins in Côte d'Ivoire, UN mission says

21 April 2005

Côte d'Ivoire Government troops and the fighters from the West African country's major rebel force started their four-day withdrawal of heavy weaponry from the frontline today and it has been proceeding without a major hitch, the United Nations peacekeeping mission said.

Côte d'Ivoire, long the world's leading cocoa producer, has been split between the north, held by the rebel Forces Nouvelles, and the south, under the control of the Government's Defence and Security Forces of Côte d'Ivoire, since a coup attempt against President Laurent Gbagbo failed in 2002 and was turned into an insurgency.

The area between them is held by peacekeepers of the UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) and UN-authorized French Licorne forces.

UNOCI has been seeking to ensure that both sides abide by a peace agreement signed in January 2003 in Linas-Marcoussis, France, an accord on unresolved issues (Accra III) reached last July in Accra, Ghana, and further arrangements brokered recently by South African President Thabo Mbeki on behalf of the African Union (AU) and known as the Pretoria Agreement.

Meanwhile, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the country and the head of UNOCI, Pierre Schori, yesterday urged all political parties to ensure full and unconditional implementation of the Pretoria Agreement and he got a pledge of cooperation, the mission said.

Mr. Schori, who took up his position on 11 April, made the call after meeting separately with representatives of seven allied opposition groups, known as the Group of Seven and led by Alphonse Djédjé Mady, and the presidential party, the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), led by Affi N'Guessan.


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