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Gbagbo camp calls on supporters to 'end the war'

The head of former leader Laurent Gbagbo's political party called on supporters Saturday to "end the war" and work toward uniting a divided Ivory Coast following Gbagbo's arrest Monday after months of refusing to cede power.


AFP - Former Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo's political party called on his supporters Saturday to "end the war" and "the escalation of violence" in the country following his arrest.

"In many places, some of our compatriots are still fighting," said Pascal Affi N'Guessan, the leader of Gbagbo's Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), standing alongside former foreign minister Alcide Djedje.

"We must stop the escalation of violence," he said in a statement at a hotel where he and other former members of Gbagbo's regime have taken refuge under the protection of President Alassane Ouattara's forces and UN peacekeepers.

"In the name of peace, let us end the war. Let us put an end to all forms of belligerence and confrontation," he said. "We must give our country the chance for restoration and reconstruction."

Ouattara's government said about 70 people arrested along with Gbagbo, including family members and house staff, were freed on Saturday.

Of the 120-some people arrested with Gbagbo on Monday, 30 members of his family, including his grandchildren, were released and taken to "a destination we are keeping confidential", Ouattara's justice minister, Jeannot Ahoussou Kouadio, said on the new government's TCI television.

Another 38 people arrested, mainly house staff including cooks and gardeners, were also released and "each has gone home", he said.

While Ivory Coast's new authorities searched for a key player in Gbagbo's ousted regime, supporters of his "Street General", Charles Ble Goude, said he was securely out of reach.

Ble Goude was staying in "a secure location" and would not be arrested, a Gbagbo advisor, Toussaint Alain, told AFP in Paris, declining to comment further.

Rumours have been circulating about the whereabouts of the Gbagbo henchman who was officially minister for youth but better known as the hardline leader of Abidjan youths, the Young Patriots, loyal to the former ruler.

He was not among the Gbagbo faithful who were with the deposed leader when he was arrested at the presidential palace on Monday.

A spokeswoman for Ouattara confirmed that they were "actively searching" for Ble Goude.

"He is one of the pillars of the Laurent Gbagbo regime, especially in directing militias. He transformed the Young Patriots into militiamen, giving weapons to the people," Anne Ouloto said.

Since 2005, Ble Goude has been under a United Nations travel ban and asset freeze for his alleged "direction of and participation in acts of violence by street militias, including beatings, rapes and extrajudicial killings".

Meanwhile another top member of Gbagbo's security detail, Republican Guard general Bruno Dogbo Ble, has been arrested, TCI reported.

He and his troops have been accused of torturing civilians during the post-election conflict, charges he denies.

At the same time the Ouattara administration struggled to get the country moving again with civil servants who had stayed home during the fierce fighting between the forces of the rival leaders ordered to return to work on Monday.

Also classes are expected to resume in Ivorian schools on April 26, TCI reported.

But Ouattara is not getting unanimous support from his African neighbours with Gambia still backing Gbagbo and opposed to the use of foreign forces.

Ivorians living overseas also showed their allegiances on Saturday.

In Paris some 2,200 people gathered opposite the Eiffel tower for a pro-Ouattara rally, chanting thanks to French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the United Nations for their help in bringing change to Ivory Coast.

Across town at the Bastille, a counter-demonstration in support of Gbagbo drew several dozen people, an AFP correspondent reported.


Abidjan, a city teeming with arms
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