Ivory Coast's army said today that it opposed a new peace deal with rebel forces. Meanwhile, 10 people were reported killed in ethnic clashes, indicating that loyalist anger over the accord was rising sharply.
Thousands of government loyalists surrounded the U.S. Embassy in the commercial capital of Abidjan, demanding that Washington press President Laurent Gbagbo to back out of the deal. The accord, brokered by France during two weeks of talks that ended Friday, seeks to end four months of fighting in which rebels seized the northern half of the country, which is the world's leading cocoa producer and a vital economic hub in West Africa.
Ivory Coast's security forces are unhappy with unconfirmed provisions that would give the rebels control of the military and paramilitary police. They have done little to quell four days of often-violent protests.
An army spokesman, Col. Jules Yao Yao, said army officials met today with Gbagbo and "told him officially that the army does not agree with certain elements of the peace agreement."
Loyalist Christian and animist mobs in the town of Agboville, near Abidjan, attacked townspeople belonging to the northern rebels' heavily Muslim minority Dioula ethnic group, burning a mosque. Yao Yao said there were unconfirmed reports from the scene that 10 people had been killed.
Hard-core loyalists say the deal, which calls for a power-sharing government until elections in 2005, yields far too much to the insurgents, who launched the war in September in part because they say Gbagbo and his southern-based government fanned ethnic tensions.
Agboville is in the heart of government territory. Yao Yao said the military had sent reinforcements.
In Abidjan, 40 miles south, 6,000 government loyalists massed outside the U.S. Embassy, demanding that Washington block the peace deal. The United States already has said it backs the accord.
A rebel leader, Guillaume Soro, said from Paris that Gbagbo "must confront the extremists in his camp."