3 Killed in Ivory Coast Anti-Government Protests

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Police fired on demonstrators at an anti-government rally Friday, killing three people and wounding a dozen others in the latest protest since the president dissolved the government a week ago, the opposition said.

Demonstrations spread to at least eight cities on Friday. Moussa Dembele of the opposition RDR party said the deadly protest took place in Gagnoa, about 125 miles (200 kilometers) northwest of the economic capital Abidjan.

President Laurent Gbagbo had set a Friday deadline to form a new government but the prime minister on Thursday evening asked for a 48-hour extension.

The dissolution of the government has thrown into doubt the political reconciliation process in Ivory Coast, which was about to hold elections. Five years after the president's term ended, Ivory Coast has yet to hold a ballot to replace him.

The now-defunct government was the fruit of a peace agreement signed by Gbagbo's government and the New Forces rebels in 2007 following a civil war that had split the world's No. 1 cocoa producer into a rebel-held north and a government-controlled south. The unity government was composed of 33 ministers from all political parties and rebel factions.

At the heart of the impasse that has delayed elections for five years is the question of who is really Ivorian. Before its brief civil war, Ivory Coast was one of Africa's economic stars boasting a modern, cosmopolitan capital which lured tens of thousands of immigrants from poorer neighboring nations. At least a quarter of the nation's 20 million people have been disqualified from voting based on the electoral law's convoluted definition for determining eligibility, stoking tension.