Fighting in Ivory Coast flares over peace deal

A loyalist displays a sign reading, US rescue us from the assassins of democracy, France, Jacques Chirac' in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Tuesday. Chanting loyalists mobbed the United States embassy by the thousands Tuesday, calling on the U.S. to come out against a French-brokered peace deal that has been undermined by four days of often violent protests from government supporters.

The Associated Press
Published: Wednesday, January 29, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 29, 2003 at 1:26 a.m.
ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast - Ivory Coast's army said Tuesday it opposed a new peace deal with rebel forces while ethnic clashes reportedly killed 10 people, new signs that loyalist anger over the accord was spinning out of the government's control.
Thousands of government loyalists surrounded the U.S. Embassy in the commercial capital of Abidjan, demanding that Washington press President Laurent Gbagbo to back out of the deal.
The accord, brokered by France during two weeks of talks that ended Friday, seeks to end four months of fighting that saw rebels seize the northern half of the nation, the world's leading cocoa producer and a vital economic hub in West Africa.
Ivory Coast's security forces are unhappy with unconfirmed provisions that would give the rebels control of the military and paramilitary police. They have done little to quell four days of often-violent protests.
Ano Nianzou, a spokesman for Gbagbo, said many Ivorians viewed that concession as unacceptable.
"The people in Abidjan cannot accept that rebels who seized power by chance and who killed many people occupy the ministries of the interior and defense," Nianzou said.
An army spokesman, Lt. Co. Jules Yao Yao, said army officials met with Gbagbo on Tuesday and "told him officially that the army does not agree with certain elements of the peace agreement."
The security forces' support is vital in Ivory Coast, a country plunged into chaos by a military coup in 1999.
Loyalist Christian and animist mobs in Agboville, near Abidjan, attacked townspeople from the heavily Muslim minority Dioula tribe . Unconfirmed reports had 10 people killed.
Bands of young men armed with guns and metal bars roamed the town "on a hunt for Dioulas," said a Dioula resident of Agboville, reached by telephone.
Hard-core loyalists say the deal, which calls for a government-rebel power-sharing government until 2005 elections, yields far too much to the insurgents, who launched the war in September in part because they say Gbagbo and his southern-based government fanned ethnic tensions.
The loyalists among the southern ethnic groups - whipped to an anti-rebel frenzy during the fighting - have defied Gbagbo's calls for calm.
Agboville is in the heart of government territory. Yao Yao, the army spokesman, said the military had sent reinforcements.
In Abidjan, 40 miles south, 6,000 government loyalists massed outside the U.S. Embassy, demanding that Washington block the French-brokered peace deal. The United States already has said it backs the accord, although word appeared not to have sunk in with the protesters.
Waving U.S. flags, the loyalists chanted "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" and sang the Star Spangled Banner. Cheering crowds mobbed the car of a few Americans who ventured out as heavily armed U.S. Marines looked on.
Late Monday, Gbagbo appeared to back away from the deal, calling the terms of the deal "propositions." He said he was obligated to ask the people for their approval.
A rebel leader, Guillaume Soro, told Gbagbo that political fortitude was required to make the deal work.
"We accepted enormous concessions," Soro, head of the Patriotic Movement of Ivory Coast, said from Paris. "It takes political courage. Mr. Gbagbo must confront the extremists in his camp."
On Tuesday, protesters said they would pay close attention to Gbagbo's much-anticipated address to the nation, expected in the next few days.
The president "told us he'd signed nothing in Paris," said Dominique Flan, his face covered in traditional mud paint. "If he ends up telling us different, we'll take him out."
Gbagbo at least initially tried to sell the deal, saying frankly that Ivory Coast had not won the war and thus could not impose the terms for peace.
In Paris, the French government urged Gbagbo to stick to the pact.
"It is up to President Gbagbo to explain to his militants, to explain to the extremists of his camp the spirit in which (the agreement) was made," French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin told France-2 television.
The violence was the fourth day of protests over the deal. In Abidjan, mobs have beaten Westerners and attacked the French Embassy and other French targets.
On Tuesday, the French military sent soldiers to escort about 250 foreigners into Abidjan from their weekend retreats on outlying beaches.
An e-mail sent out overnight to Americans in Ivory Coast told them to consider taking steps to prepare for a possible U.S. evacuation, such as packing bags.

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