ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) _ A U.N. peacekeeper was killed Wednesday in a knife attack in a northern rebel stronghold of the war-divided country, a U.N. official said.

The attack on the Moroccan soldier came shortly after midnight in the city of Bouake, according to U.N. spokesman Renald Boismoreau.

A buffer zone patrolled by 6,000 U.N. troops and 4,000 French peacekeepers separates northern-based rebel fighters and Ivory Coast loyalist forces in the south.

President Laurent Gbagbo's party and pro-government militias have been demanding they quit the country, charging they are partisan.

Ivory Coast, the world's largest cocoa producer, descended into civil war after a failed September 2002 coup attempt.

Peace deals have largely reduced fighting but failed to reunite the one-time French colony.

Last month, unidentified assailants attacked two police stations in a northern suburb of the capital, Abidjan, briefly seizing a nearby town in clashes that left about 10 people dead. Following the attack, U.N. and French peacekeepers were deployed in the town.