Pope Calls for Peace and Dialogue in Ivory Coast

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 9, 2002 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II appealed for reconciliation and dialogue in Ivory Coast as tensions heightened between rebels and the government of Laurent Gbagbo.



"From the African continent, already sorely tried by calamities and conflicts, disquieting news on Ivory Coast continues to arrive, running the risk of seeing the fundamental good of peace compromised," John Paul II said at the end of today's general audience.

"I invite you to unite yourselves to my prayer so that the Lord will inspire everyone with decisions for reconciliation and sustain the efforts of the international community, in particular those of the African Union, tending to favor dialogue," the Holy Father said.

Since Sept. 19, Ivory Coast has been enduring an armed insurrection by hundreds of military rebels, who now control parts of the north and center of the country.

Government sources report that "mercenaries" and "terrorists" from nearby countries, such as Liberia, Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone, might be involved in the uprising.

President Gbagbo on Tuesday delivered a televised address proposing talks with the rebels. But he said he would speak with them only if they lay down their arms immediately.

The Misna news agency reports that it was precisely Gbagbo's opposition to legitimize the rebellious group that foiled last week's attempt at mediation by the Economic Community of the West African States.