ECOWAS makes first contact with Ivorian mutineers

Abidjan- Côte d'Ivoire (PANA) -- The contact group of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has made its first communication with rebel soldiers in Côte d'Ivoire, officials here confirmed Wednesday.
ECOWAS Executive Secretary Mohamed Ibn Chambaz got in touch with leaders of the mutiny Tuesday in Bouake and described his telephone conversation with their head as "cordial and very relaxed".
Chambaz, who is leading the ECOWAS team, spoke to Lieutenant Elender who introduced himself as commander-in-chief of military operations of the insurgents.
Sources close to the ECOWAS ministerial delegation said a meeting in Bouake, the stronghold of the rebellion, would follow soon.
The ECOWAS contact group arrived in Abidjan on Monday.
It comprises ministers of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Security from Togo, Nigeria and Ghana, as well as army chiefs of staff of these countries.
Côte d'Ivoire President Laurent Gbagbo met the group Tuesday and agreed to a cease-fire between loyalist forces and the rebels who are in control of nearly half of the country.
Formation of the contact group, which, besides Togo, Ghana and Nigeria, also includes Guinea-Bissau, Niger and a representative of the African Union, was decided at the ECOWAS extraordinary summit on the Ivorian crisis, held Sunday in Accra, Ghana.
Its visit to Côte d'Ivoire comes close to two weeks after 750 Ivorian soldiers who were about to be demobilised, mutinied in Abidjan and Bouake.
Ivorian authorities have describe the mutiny as an attempted coup and a terrorist aggression.
Clashes between loyal troops and the rebels have left over 500 people dead and several hundreds wounded, according to military and diplomatic sources.

02 october 2002 17:31:00

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