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Thursday, October 26, 2006

"Gbagbo must go" - Ivorian rebels

Johannesburg (AND)- Rebels in the Ivory Coast have opposed calls by the African Union that President Laurent Gbagbo should continue leading the country for another year until elections are held.

African Union heads of state and government recommended the extension during a meeting in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa on Tuesday.

"We still demand [Gbagbo] goes after October 30. Nothing justifies his presence in this transition," rebel spokesman Sidiki Konate told Reuters news agency.

"It means permanent blockage and another year without elections and another year of suffering for the Ivorian people," he said.

BBc said there are more than 10,000 French and UN troops in Ivory Coast, most patrolling the ceasefire line between the northern and southern parts of the country.

The African Union also recommended on Wednesday that President Gbagbo's prime minister, Charles Konan Banny, be given control of the country's military and security forces.

Banny is regarded as a neutral figure, but diplomats say he has often been overshadowed and politically outmanoevred by President Gbagbo.

In the wake of the African Union proposal, President Gbagbo's aide Ben Soumahoro called for the prime minister to resign.

"Banny has failed and all that's left for him to do is step down," he told the Associated Press news agency.

The stance was echoed by pro-Gbagbo supporters staging a protest at the airport in the country's economic capital, Abidjan.

The protesters carried placards reading "We want war, we do not want Banny", AFP news agency reported.

The opposing Ivorian rebels have held the north of the country since a civil war in 2002.

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