Compaore to attend Ivorian reconciliation talks in Accra

The Burkina Faso President, Blaise Compaoré, will attend an extraordinary ECOWAS summit on Cote d'Ivoire next Tuesday in Accra, the Ghanaian Foreign Minister, Nana Akuffo-Addo said.

"The president has expressed willingness to be in Accra and do what he can to contribute to the peace process in Cote d'Ivoire," Akuffo-Addo told reporters after meeting Compaoré in the Burkina capital, Ouagadougou on Wednesday.

"His presence and involvement are very important to the process," the minister added.

The proposed meeting follows weeks of intense diplomacy, during which Ivorian political and rebel leaders visited President John Kufuor in Accra, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo in Abuja and Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade in Dakar.

ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States), which is organising the meeting, aims to reconcile Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo and the rebel leaders to put Cote d'Ivoire's faltering peace process back on track.

Cote d'Ivoire accuses Compaoré of backing rebels who seized control of northern Cote d'Ivoire after failing to topple Gbagbo in September 2002. Burkina Faso, which denies involvement, last month also arrested 16 alleged coup plotters and pointed fingers at its neighbour for supporting the alleged plotters.

The Ivorian rebels signed a French-brokered peace agreement in January and joined a broad-based government of national reconciliation. But they suspended their participation in the peace process on September 23, complaining that Gbagbo had failed to delegate sufficient powers to cabinet ministers, resulting in a stalemate.

"We are optimistic and continue to look for ways to bring back to the rails the stalled peace process in Cote d'Ivoire. We cannot sit down and continue to let the situation deteriorate," Akuffo-Addo said.

The minister was accompanied to Ouagadougou by the ECOWAS Executive Secretary, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, who said the Accra meeting would focus on re-implementation of the Marcoussis Accord.

"We need to work on identifying the key things that need to be done in the context of Marcoussis and procedures to build these things," Chambas said.

Last Thursday, the Nigerian and Ghanaian presidents flew to Cote d'Ivoire to meet Gbagbo to discuss ways of ending a five-week-old stand-off with rebels and said afterwards they had made progress.

Kufuor told reporters after their talks at Abidjan airport with Gbagbo and Seydou Diarra, the Prime Minister of Cote d'Ivoire's broad-based government of national reconciliation: "We believe that what has transpired today will provide a cooling down period in the peace process".