President Laurent Gbagbo said on Friday he had approved a draft amnesty law for rebels occupying the north of Cote d'Ivoire and urged parliament to pass it quickly.
Gabgo made the announcement at a ceremony where government and rebel military leaders signed a joint declaration that formally ended a state of military war in the country.
Gbagbo's approval of the amnesty law clears the way for the rebels to begin a delayed process of demobilisation and disarmament. It also puts the peace process back on track following a rebel threats to suspend their participation in Cote d'Ivoire's government of national reconciliation in protest at an attack on one of their leaders on 27 June, while he was visiting the headquarters of state television in Abidjan.
The president said: "The ministers have done their job. They have declared the end of the war. I am the happiest man in Cote d'Ivoire today. It is now up to the other politicians to match their efforts."
Gbagbo said the amnesty bill would be tabled in parliament by Tuesday at the latest.
Colonel Sumaila Bakayoko, the chief of staff of rebel forces, said after signing the formal declaration that war had ended:"We are now bound to a logic of peace and reconciliation. Despite the incidents which have ocurred, I can say that we can only be happy with ourselves (for what has been achieved). "
Gbagbo said the way was now clear for the government to send back civilian administrators into rebel-held parts of the country. "Within a few days, there will be a deployment of the civil administration," he said."The prefects and sub-prefects will return to their posts and rest will of the administration will follow."
The draft amnesty law, which was approved by the cabinet of prime minister Seydou Diarra on Thursday, covers all civillians and military personnel who sought to overthrow the government after the controversial presidential elections of September 2000, in which Alasanne Ouattarra, a former prime minister, who was popular in the north of the country, was banned from standing.
The amnesty goes back well before the outbreak of the civil war itself on September 19 last year.
However, it specifically excludes economic crimes, violations of the international humanitarian law and "serious violations" of human rights.
Government sources said the exact definition of "serious violations" was likely to be a subject of lively debate when the amnesty bill goes before parliament.
The amnesty specifically covers acts of desertion and military rebellion, paving the way for soldiers and policemen who joined the rebels to be reintegrated into the security forces.
Gbagbo said: "Without this amnesty law, I could not reconstruct a new army in Cote d'Ivoire."
The government and rebels signed a French-brokered peace agreement in January which paved the way for the formation of a government of national reconciliation, incorporating nine rebel ministers, in April.
Since then a ceasefire has been respected in most of the country, except in the far west, near the Liberian border, where French and West African peacekeeping forces moved in at the end of May to restore order.
Gbagbo said the situation in the west, where both the government and rebels had armed poorly disciplined militias, was not yet fully under control. "The west is not calm," he said, exhorting the peacekeepers to tighten their control of security in the area.
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