Ivory Coast ex-rebel leader to remain PM - Ouattara

ABIDJAN Sun May 22, 2011 11:49pm IST

Guillaume Soro addresses troops in the provincial capital Yamoussoukro, March 31, 2011. REUTERS/Emmanuel Braun/Files

Guillaume Soro addresses troops in the provincial capital Yamoussoukro, March 31, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Emmanuel Braun/Files

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ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara confirmed on Sunday he plans to keep former rebel leader Guillaume Soro as his prime minister and defence minister.

Ouattara was inaugurated as president on Saturday in a ceremony most Ivorians hope will end a decade of conflict and put the formerly prosperous West African nation, the world's No. 1 cocoa producer, back on the path to development.

He is expected to name his government and top military commanders in the coming few days.

"Guillaume Soro has done an excellent job and he will be reconstituted in his post," Ouattara, a former International Monetary Fund deputy director, said in an interview on Radio France International (RFI).

Ouattara won the second round of the November presidential election against incumbent Laurent Gbagbo, U.N. certified results showed, largely because he formed a coalition with third place contestant Henri Konan Bedie -- whose party had therefore been expected to name a prime minister.

But Gbagbo refused to step down, sparking a violent power struggle that only ended when rebels allied to Ouattara -- but under the command of Soro -- ousted him in April, with French military backing.

While Bedie helped Ouattara win the vote, it was Soro's military muscle that was decisive in enabling him to take power.

Ouattara said he had consulted Bedie before the decision.

"(Former) president Bedie and I agreed to do it," he said.

At least 3,000 people were killed and more than a million displaced in the crisis, in which cocoa exports ground to a halt, banks shut and shops were ransacked.

Ouattara is widely expected to give top military posts to former rebel leaders who helped him remove Gbagbo. But analysts say his government will need to be inclusive and reach across the political spectrum to former enemies if he is to heal the bitter divisions left over from the crisis.

Ouattara wants to put Gbagbo on trial and has asked the International Criminal Court to probe allegations of serious human rights crimes, but his debt to Soro may make it difficult for him to investigate alleged abuses on the side of the rebels.

(Reporting by Tim Cocks in Abidjan, additional reporting by Daniel Flynn and Alexandria Sage in Paris, editing by Mark Heinrich)

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