Ivory Coast sets new election date

Image caption,
Any future delays are now likely to come in the area of disarmament

The date for long-delayed presidential elections in Ivory Coast has been set for 31 October, Prime Minister Guillaume Soro has said.

A rebellion lead by Mr Soro split the country in half in 2002 and polls are seen as a vital step to end the crisis.

Mr Soro joined a unity government in 2007, but the peace process has been dogged by delays.

Elections have been postponed at least six times in the five years since the president's mandate expired.

The BBC's John James in Abidjan says the announcement of the election date will ease the considerable disquiet there has been about celebrating the country's 50 years of independence from France on Saturday without an election date.

Funding worries

President Laurent Gbagbo's five-year mandate was supposed to have come to an end five years ago.

Our reporter says this time, however, elections do look possible.

The verification of the electoral roll has finished and, in theory, the definitive electoral roll will be published shortly, he says.

That just leaves the distribution of the new identity cards throughout the country - a process the country's 8,000-strong UN peacekeeping force will help with.

Our correspondent says any future delays are now likely to come in the area of disarmament.

The ex-rebel soldiers are supposed to enter four demobilisation centres two months before the election.

But there is a lack of money for this as well as continuing suspicions that the ex-rebels are not quite ready to surrender control of the northern half of the country - and the illegal taxes they control with it, our reporter says.

Since the death of the country's founding President, Felix Houphouet-Boigny, in 1993 the country has struggled to choose a legitimate new leader.

That led to tensions between north and south that in 2002 erupted in civil war.

The elections, if they happen, will mark the first open contest between the country's current generation of politicians.

And if they pass off peacefully they would end of a difficult decade in what was once a model of stability and economic success for the region, our correspondent says.

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