ABIDJAN — Ivory Coast Prime Minister Jeannot Kouadio Ahoussou on Thursday met delegates from small opposition parties close to ousted president Laurent Gbagbo for the first talks since a wave of armed attacks raised political tensions.
Gbagbo's own party, the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), decided not to take part in the meeting, but the 10 or so movements present included the National Resistance Congress for Democracy (CNRD), represented by an FPI member.
The talks were the first in a planned series within "the permanent framework of dialogue" -- instituted by the authorities last April at Bassam, near Abidjan, to open a "political dialogue" with the opposition -- since the attacks by unidentified armed men began two months ago, particularly in the economic capital.
"We have taken a long time to meet up again since our last meeting at Bassam in April because the socio-political situation has been shaken up by several events," the prime minister said as he opened the two-hour meeting.
Opposition figure Daniele Boni-Claverie later told the press participants were "very pleased" to have met again.
Issues linked to financing and the opposition's status, justice and security were discussed "very openly", she said.
Another meeting would be held in a month.
Special panels are to prepare local and regional polls scheduled for February 2013, and see how to improve the legal system and security, another opposition leader, said former National Assembly president Mamadou Koulibaly.
"If we continue like this chances are that the belligerence will stop," he said.
The FPI has refused for several months to be placed in the same basket as its small allies and to take part in the Bassam dialogues, demanding direct talks with the government of President Alassane Ouattara.
Interior Minister Hamed Bakayoko and other members of the government sat in on the talks.
The attacks in Abidjan and the volatile west of the country, targeting the army and police, are the worst violence since a bloody post-electoral conflict that lasted between December 2010 and April 2011, after Gbagbo refused to accept defeat by Ouattara in elections in November 2010.
That struggle claimed some 3,000 lives. Gbagbo was eventually arrested and currently faces trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague for alleged crimes against humanity.
The recent attacks are blamed by the regime on Gbagbo loyalists and have led to several arrests, but the opposition denies any part in the violence.
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