Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo appointed a transitional prime minister today, taking the first step toward implementing a peace plan aimed at ending a four-month civil war.
Gbagbo said he had chosen Seydou Diarra, a former prime minister who previously chaired national reconciliation talks, as his new partner in a power-sharing government.
Appearing at a news conference with Diarra, Gbagbo said he had "taken note" of the peace agreement reached Friday by government and rebel leaders in Paris and would announce a new coalition government soon. The peace deal requires that the new government include opposition members.
Peace negotiations ended Friday with a draft agreement to end a spiraling civil war in Ivory Coast. A weekend summit of 11 African leaders being held in Paris gave international legitimacy to the peace plan.
"It is, of course, for the men and women of Ivory Coast to repudiate this dark page of their history," U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said. "But we can and must help them to do so."
Thousands of people in Ivory Coast's commercial capital, Abidjan, protested the peace agreement, saying it made too many concessions to the rebels.
Angry youths chanted anti-French slogans. One group demonstrated outside the French army's base in Abidjan, denouncing an accord they said Gbagbo signed under pressure from France, the former colonial power of Ivory Coast.
Under the peace agreement, Gbagbo can remain in office but must share power with a newly strengthened prime minister until new elections can be held.
Guillaume Soro, head of the main northern rebel group, the Patriotic Movement of Ivory Coast, said his group would be given the defense and interior portfolios in the new government.
Gbagbo, however, did not discuss the makeup of the coalition government at his news conference and declined to take questions.
Ivory Coast's civil war broke out in September after a failed coup to oust Gbagbo. Since then, hundreds of people have been killed and thousands displaced.
Diarra, a career ambassador, served as prime minister in a national unity government under Gen. Robert Guei, who led Ivory Coast's first military coup in 1999 and died in the failed coup in September. Diarra later led national talks in October 2001 aimed at reconciling Ivory Coast's deep ethnic and political rifts.
Gbagbo came to power in 2000 in a flawed election in which opposition leader Alassane Ouattara, a former prime minister with heavy support in the rebellious north, was barred from running after doubt was cast over his nationality. Gbagbo's victory infuriated the opposition.