Leader of Ivory Coast coup vows to bring in civilian rule

IVORY COAST'S new ruler, General Robert Guei, met foreign diplomats yesterday in an attempt to persuade a disapproving world to work with the military junta that seized power in a surprise Christmas coup - the first since the West African country's independence from France in 1960.

General Guei has also promised to set up a civilian government next week and is claiming that the rapid and largely bloodless coup, which began on 23 December with mutineering soldiers rampaging through the commercial capital, Abidjan, and ended less than 48 hours later, struck a blow for true democracy and ethnic harmony in Ivory Coast.

Meanwhile, ousted president Henri Konan Bedie, who was flown to Togo on Sunday by the French government, is visiting countries in the region to lobby his cause ahead of a meeting of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), which will discuss the coup today.

Mr Bedie travelled to Nigeria on Monday, and was expected to visit Mali yesterday. Mali, current chairman of Ecowas, has strongly condemned the coup and called for an immediate return to constitutional and democratic order.

General Guei met the leaders of the Ivory Coast's main political parties on Monday, calling for national reconciliation and giving them 48 hours to name ministers for the civilian government. Members of the junta will take the defence, security, interior and foreign affairs portfolios. Parties at the meeting included Mr Bedie's Democratic Party, which ruled the country for more than three decades, and both major opposition groups.

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