General News Mon, 25 Nov 2002

Ghana Drawn Into Ivorian WAR!

...Ivorian Rebels Accuse Ghana of Collaboration
...Defense Minister denies allegations.
LOME, Togo - Ivory Coast's rebels Sunday accused Ghana of agreeing to help mount an attack against them, and although the allegations were immediately denied, they cast a shadow over deadlocked peace talks to end a two-month uprising in the West African nation.

Rebel chief negotiator Guillaume Soro said Ghana had agreed to allow Ivory Coast troops use its territory to launch an attack on rebel positions in Bouna, near Ivory Coast's northeastern border with Ghana.

Speaking in Togo's capital Lome, where peace talks have been taking place for nearly a month, Soro also said Ghana's President John Kufuor had agreed to provide 70 to 100 Ghanaian soldiers to take part in the attack. He did not disclose his sources for the charges.

Ghana's Defense Minister Kwame Addo-Kufuor denied the allegations.

"I can tell you it is not true and cannot be true. It is baseless," he told The Associated Press. Ghana is a member of a six-nation regional contact group set up to find a peaceful solution to the crisis that has crippled Ivory Coast.

Peace talks have so far yielded few concrete results, and have been poisoned by distrust, with both sides accusing each other of atrocities and violating a month-old cease-fire in the former French colony.

West African leaders are desperate to avoid a return to war in Ivory Coast, the world's largest cocoa producer and home to millions of immigrants from impoverished neighboring countries.

The Lome talks have stalled on the rebels' demand that President Laurent Gbagbo resign and clear the way for new elections, and the authorities' insistence that rebels lay down their arms.

A spokesman for Gbagbo dismissed the rebels' allegations about Ghana, calling them a serious political mistake. "It's the latest rabbit they have pulled from their hat to prevent the signing of a peace accord," Toussaint Alain said. "I think our patience has limits and I fear it has reached them," he added.

Soro said the rebels wanted to go to Ghana's capital Accra to investigate the alleged cooperation between Ivory Coast and its neighbor.
A man walks away from homes burning after police set them on fire

The allegations come a day after rebels put their forces on maximum alert, saying Ivory Coast's army was preparing an imminent attack. Soro, however, said the rebels were prepared to continue the peace talks.

Earlier Sunday, Togolese President Gnassingbe Eyadema, who is mediating the talks, met with Soro and the head of the government delegation, Laurent Dona Fologo. It was not immediately clear what they talked about.

Last week, rebels were given a new draft peace accord to study, after rejecting a first blueprint. Their response to the latest draft is not yet known.

Rebels launched a failed coup attempt on Sept. 19 and have since seized the northern half of Ivory Coast. Hundreds have been killed and tens of thousands have fled their homes, including immigrants who have left the country to escape growing anti-foreigner sentiment.

Rebels and government forces agreed a cease-fire on Oct. 17, but both sides have been rearming. More than 1,000 French troops are monitoring the cease-fire and are due to be replaced by a West African force by the end of the month. Ghana has agreed to provide 247 troops for the regional force.

The rebels say they are fighting against the discrimination of mainly Muslim northern tribes by Christian and animist southern groups that have traditionally dominated government.

Ivory Coast's government has accused Burkina Faso of backing the rebels and has said mercenaries from other neighboring countries have joined rebel ranks.


Source: AP
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