- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 30, 2002

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast Ivory Coast's main opposition leader was granted full Ivorian nationality, resolving a long-running ethnic and political dispute that has bloodied this West African nation for years, his lawyer said yesterday.
A court in the commercial capital of Abidjan delivered the certificate of nationality to opposition chief Alassane Dramane Ouattara late Friday, lawyer Emmanuel Assi said.
The question of Mr. Ouattara's citizenship has led to repeated street battles between his supporters and those of President Laurent Gbagbo that have left hundreds of people dead.
Hundreds of anti-Ouattara militants protested the decision in the city's Cocody, Riviera and Yopougon neighborhoods yesterday. In Riviera, trucks full of police moved in and fired tear gas to disperse the crowds.
The decision removes a principal obstacle that would have prevented Mr. Ouattara from running in the country's next presidential race, set for 2005.
The Supreme Court barred Mr. Ouattara, a former prime minister, from running in legislative and presidential elections in 2000 because of questions about his nationality.
Mr. Ouattara insists both he and his parents are Ivorian the proof of which is legally required to run for office. Detractors, including the government, say Mr. Ouattara has roots in neighboring Burkina Faso.
"He has all the papers now that prove he is fully Ivorian. He can run for president," Mr. Assi said. "This is a good thing for Ivory Coast."
The news comes ahead of July 7 local elections that many feared could spark widespread ethnic, political and religious violence.
It also precedes a July 9 demonstration that had been planned by the youth wing of Mr. Ouattara's Rally of the Republicans party, or RDR, in part to demand his nationality papers. It was not clear if the march would be held.
Ivory Coast's reputation as an oasis of peace in volatile West Africa was shattered in December 1999, when Gen. Robert Guei seized power in the nation's first-ever coup and forced then-President Henri Konan Bedie into exile.


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