ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) – Ivory Coast’s power-sharing government on Saturday filled the key ministerial posts of defense and security, but rebels rejected the appointments and accused the president of forcing them through.

Agreement on the minister posts was originally expected to remove one of the main obstacles to reunifying the country.

But after Saturday’s move, rebel leader Guillaume Soro, now Communications Minister, said his supporters would not take part in a planned disarmament process due to get underway in coming months. “We have no trust to the new ministers to disarm.”

The government named Rene Amani, a political independent and a former cocoa industry executive as defense minister. Martin Bleou, a university teacher and independent human rights activist, was named minister of interior security.

Cabinet officials representing rebels, opposition parties and President Laurent Gbagbo loyalists have argued over the two positions since January, when a French-brokered peace accord created a blueprint to lead Ivory Coast out of war.

Fighting broke out in September 2002 with a failed rebel attempt to oust Gbagbo. Rebels hold the northern half of the country, despite a new power-sharing government and the war’s official end.

The ministerial appointments came after a National Security Council meeting headed by Gbagbo that began late Friday and included senior rebel officials.

In Bouake, rebel military officials were holding what they said was a “crisis” meeting to discuss the new appointments.

The main opposition Rally of the Republicans, led by former Prime Minister Alassane Dramane Ouattara and long accused by the government of backing the rebels, also rejected the new postings.

Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa producer and for years the most stable and prosperous country in West Africa, has been highly volatile since a 1999 coup.

About 4,000 French troops remain in Ivory Coast, working with a regional force of 1,200 soldiers to monitor a cease-fire.

AP-ES-09-13-03 1938EDT



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