- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 28, 2003

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast Loyalist mobs waving machetes and metal clubs ran riot through Ivory Coast's main city yesterday, in a third day of protests over a power-sharing peace deal with rebels.

Throngs of angry young men set up fiery roadblocks, besieged the French and American embassies for a second day and attacked foreigners, who were warned to stay indoors.

President Laurent Gbagbo struggled to control the rebel-hating fervor that his own government had helped whip up during four months of war against insurgents.

"I ask them to go home. I ask them to go to work," Mr. Gbagbo said in a brief appeal to his supporters Monday afternoon on state TV.

Mr. Gbagbo has urged loyalists to accept the French-brokered plan reached Friday in Paris. He said it was the best deal possible since the government had proven unable to defeat rebels on the battlefield.

The accord, meant to end a war that has seen rebels seize more than half of the world's largest cocoa-producing nation, joins insurgents, government and the political opposition in a coalition government under Mr. Gbagbo until 2005 elections.

The rebels claim that they have been given control of the interior and defense ministries, a concession that would jeopardize security forces' support of the peace deal. The government hasn't confirmed that's part of the plan, though Ivory Coast's military has called the power-sharing plan "humiliating," and the protesters say the agreement yields too much to the rebels.

The armed forces' support is vital in a part of the world where the good will of the military is essential to maintaining control. For now, loyalists blame not Mr. Gbagbo, but France, Ivory Coast's former colonial ruler.

"France has killed us and killed democracy. How can we give control of our army to the rebels?" said youth leader Ble Goude, as followers chanted anti-French slogans.

Mr. Gbagbo prepared to brief the nation on the peace plan, saying yesterday the televised address would come after up to two days of consultations with the military and others.

Appearing briefly before a crowd gathered outside his residence, Mr. Gbagbo hinted that the peace agreement reached in France was not necessarily final.

"What was said in [France] were propositions," said Mr. Gbagbo, pledging: "I will not betray the youth."

The address planned for the next couple of days is seen as crucial not just for the peace deal, but for his control of the half of the country still under government sway.

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