YAMOUSSOUKRO, Ivory Coast -- Hopes for peace in Ivory Coast rose Friday as rebels and the government agreed to a truce after a month of fighting that killed hundreds. The government asked that French troops monitor the cease-fire.
There was no immediate word from Paris on President Laurent Gbagbo's request that French troops act as a buffer between rebel and government forces. But a French military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Paris views the cease-fire as a positive step toward peace.
The rebels have seized much of the northern half of the cocoa-producing nation since a failed Sept. 19 coup.
Gbagbo said early Friday, as the cease-fire was taking effect, that he wants French troops to monitor the rebels until ECOWAS, a regional group of West African states, can disarm them. Leaders from ECOWAS -- the Economic Community of West African States -- are to meet next week.
"I asked France to play the role of a buffer force for now -- we have a week -- to carry out the surveillance of the cease-fire and to re-establish government authority in the regions where it had disappeared," Gbagbo said in a nationally televised address.
France has about 1,000 troops in Ivory Coast, its former colony, to protect French and other foreign nationals and to provide logistical support for government forces against the rebels. There were about 20,000 French citizens and about 2,000 Americans in Ivory Coast before the uprising.
The rebellion -- and ethnic hatreds it has unleashed -- forced tens of thousands to flee their homes and wrecked Ivory Coast's image as an oasis of relative stability in turbulent West Africa. French and American troops evacuated some 2,500 foreign nationals from rebel-held areas, including 100 American students of a missionary school.
At the core of the insurgency are 750-800 ex-soldiers, many dismissed from the army for suspected disloyalty. Their uprising gathered support from Ivorians in the north, who feel poorly treated by the country's southern-based government.
Rebels and ECOWAS mediators signed a cease-fire Thursday. Mediators said the rebels agreed to end hostilities, open talks with the government and let badly needed food supplies reach cities they control.
No government representative signed, but Gbagbo said he agreed to the deal.
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