updated 9/28/2005 2:12:06 PM ET 2005-09-28T18:12:06

Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo said Tuesday that planned October elections will not be held because rebels who control the northern half of the West African nation have failed to disarm.

Gbagbo also said the constitution allows him to remain in power after Oct. 30 — a claim rebels dispute — when the vote was to have been held and his mandate would have expired.

Most Ivorians have long doubted an election would be held with the nation split in two. Many feared fresh violence either way.

Peace deal has yet to come to fruition
In April, warring parties signed a South African-brokered peace deal and renewed past pledges to disarm. No faction has laid down weapons, however, and both sides blame each other for failing to begin the process and take other crucial steps to prepare for the ballot.

“The elections obviously cannot be held Oct. 30, 2005, because rebels will not have disarmed by this date,” Gbagbo said in an address broadcast on state television.

Amadou Kone, a top aide to rebel leader Guillaume Soro, said Gbagbo’s declaration was “not a surprise.” He said the president’s comments reflected “his bad faith in the search for a solution to the Ivorian crisis.”

Tensions have been rising in the world’s top cocoa producer in recent weeks, with rebels and the main opposition parties having already refused to participate in the presidential ballot, which many once hoped would help reunify the country.

Oasis of stability no longer
Once an oasis of stability in war-ravaged West Africa, Ivory Coast began its spiraling descent with a 1999 coup, its first. Rebels launched a failed coup bid in 2002 which left the nation split between a rebel-held north and a loyalist south.

Major fighting ended with an initial peace deal signed in France in 2003. But the country has remained tense and divided despite additional peace talks that have dragged on in Togo, Ghana and South Africa.

Rebels and opposition leaders argue that Gbagbo’s mandate will expire after the poll date and have called on him to step down and for a transitional government to be set up.

But Gbagbo rejected that proposal. “Some politicians hope to take power by putting in place a transitional government. Such a position is contrary to the constitution ... there will be no transition,” he said.

Gbagbo also called on the international community to help Ivory Coast hold the ballot “as soon as possible.”

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