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UN chief warns of Ivory Coast civil war
London, Dec 22 (Agencies):
Published on 22 Dec. 2010 10:57 PM IST
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UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has warned of a “real risk” of a return to civil war in Ivory Coast after the disputed presidential election.
He said incumbent Laurent Gbagbo was trying to expel UN peacekeepers.
The force, along with most of the international community, has recognised his rival Alassane Ouattara as victor.
Mr Gbagbo says the poll, meant to unify the country split by the 2002 war, was rigged in rebel areas. The Constitutional Council said he had won.
Mr Gbagbo’s power base is in the south, while Mr Ouattara draws most of his support from the former rebels in the north.
In his first TV address since the poll Mr Gbagbo stressed his legitimacy.
He also offered to let a panel representing international powers examine the results of the election.
Mr Gbagbo said Mr Ouattara could leave the Golf Hotel in Abidjan, where he has set up his headquarters, protected by the UN.
The army meanwhile announced the lifting of a nightly curfew, so families could “enjoy the end of year holidays and the New Year”.
In a speech to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Mr Ban said he was worried about the 10,000-strong mission in Ivory Coast (Unoci).
Forces loyal to Mr Gbagbo were obstructing Unoci operations, and had blockaded the 800 peacekeepers protecting Mr Ouattara, he warned.
“I am concerned that this disruption of life-support supplies for the mission and the Golf Hotel will put our peacekeepers in a critical situation in the coming days,” he said.
“Facing this direct and unacceptable challenge to the legitimacy of the United Nations, the world community cannot stand by,” he added.
Earlier, an ally of Mr Gbagbo warned the peacekeepers that they could be treated as rebels if they did not go.
The BBC’s John James in Abidjan says roads leading to the lagoon-side hotel have been blocked and supplies for Mr Ouattara and his entourage are running out.
Mr Ban said that any attempt to “starve the United Nations mission into submission” would not be tolerated, and warned those who perpetrated such acts would be held accountable under international law.
He also revealed Unoci had confirmed “mercenaries, including freelance former combatants from Liberia, have been recruited to target certain groups in the population”, and that an arms embargo was being broken.

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