While holding elections in Cote d'Ivoire is a priority, this should not be done at the expense of peace in the country, President Thabo Mbeki said on Wednesday.

Briefing the media following discussions with Ivorian Prime Minister Guillaume Soro at Tuynhuys, Mbeki said the unification and disarmament process currently underway in the West African country was the main priority.

"You have to complete those processes to create conditions which are conducive for peaceful elections," he said.

Soro concurred with Mbeki, saying it was important for the elections to be conducted when all Ivorians were prepared for them.

"They should take place when all Ivorians are ready for them; the most important thing at the moment is to achieve peace," he said.

The elections, which were previously scheduled to take place in 2005, had to be indefinitely postponed following political wrangling over the implementation of past peace agreements.

At the centre of the wrangling was the issue of what qualified one as an Ivorian citizen.

As a result, close to three million Ivorians had no identity documents because their citizenship was being questioned.

Soro said the government would soon dispatch a team of magistrates to issue those people with ID documents so they could participate in the forthcoming elections.

"We have started the process of deploying magistrates to go and give documents to those people," he said.

The United Nations wants elections to be conducted as early as October.

Soro, a former rebel leader, said he did not know when the election would be held, as that was the job of the country's electoral commission.

"It is the one that will decide the date when the elections will be held," he said.

However, he made it clear the Ivorian people were not opposed to the idea of the UN having to manage the election process.

"Every Ivorian is in agreement that the UN should oversee the elections," he said.

Earlier mediation attempts by Cote d'Ivoire's former colonial ruler, France, the UN, the African Union, and a west African regional bloc have all failed to bring lasting peace to the country.

But, the latest Ouagadougou agreement, brokered by northern neighbour Burkina Faso, seems to have finally brought the country's warring factions to some form of political consensus.

The west African coastal nation had been divided into the rebel controlled north with its headquarters in Bouake - the second largest city - and the government administered south where the seat of power is located in the port city of Abidjan. - Sapa