Abidjan polls likely in 2008 - electoral body

Abidjan - Long-delayed presidential elections in Ivory Coast could be held by October next year provided a voter listing exercise opens this month as planned, the electoral commission said on Thursday.

The suggested date is several months later than what was envisaged under a new peace deal reached early this year in Ouagadougou, the capital of nearby Burkina Faso.

The new peace plan clinched in March to reunite the troubled West African country divided since a failed coup in 2002 called for new elections within 10 months.

But the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI), tasked with organising elections, said given that a voter registration scheme proceeds as planned on September 25, the elections should "reasonably" be around October 2008.

"Presidential elections should be fixed at the latest 10 months after the voter identification exercise," head of the CEI Robert Mambe told a news conference.

Justice Mamadou Kone on Wednesday announced that voter registration is to open on September 25.

The presidential election in West Africa's former bastion of stability was originally meant to have taken place in October 2005, when President Laurent Gbagbo's tenure was officially to end. It has been repeatedly pushed back because of the rebellion and political obstacles.

The insurgency ended with a peace agreement between the rebels and the government, and the appointment of the rebel's leader, Guillaume Soro, as prime minister in April.

Earlier mediation attempts by Ivory Coast's former colonial ruler France, the United Nations, the African Union and a West African regional bloc have all failed to bring lasting peace in the world's top cocoa grower.

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