New Ivory Coast national-unity government holds first reception

A new national-unity government held its first Cabinet meeting Wednesday but the civil war-divided Ivory Coast's main rebel leader didn't show up.

Some rebel Cabinet members could be seen participating, but due to fears for his safety their leader, Guillaume Soro, didn't join the first caucus since Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny announced the transitional administration last month, rebels said.

The government sits in Abidjan, Ivory Coast's main government-held city and the scene of violent pro-government riots last week.

Banny leads the 32-member Cabinet under embattled President Laurent Gbagbo, whose emergency one-year mandate the United Nations backed after elections failed to take place in October as scheduled.

Banny, who selected the Cabinet that includes rebel delegates, is charged with arranging fresh balloting by end of October 2006. He also diminished Gbagbo's executive powers.

Previous attempts at national-unity governments have failed to persude either side to disarm or reunite the country according to peace deals that ended a 2002-2003 civil war. The civil war began with a failed attempt to oust Gbagbo.

Pro-Gbagbo youths besieged U.N. offices last week in what rebels said was an attempt to undermine Banny. Many Ivorians saw the riots as an attempt by Gbagbo allies to show they still hold popular support, reports the AP.

D.M.