Saturday, January 01, 2011

UN to Ivory Coast's defeated Prez allies: Do not attack peacekeepers

The United Nations chief warned on Thursday the followers of Laurent Gbagbo--the defeated president of Ivory Coast--to withdraw its threat to attack a UN-protected facility that is housing the newly-elected president Alassane Ouattara or face prosecution for war crimes.
The warning came from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as a reaction over a threat made on Wednesday by Charles Ble Goude, a government minister who heads the militant Young Patriots youth group and a Gbagbo's trusted enforcer, to "liberate the Golf Hotel with our bare hands" on Saturday.
In a statement from his office, Ban was alarmed that an attack on the hotel could "provoke widespread violence that could reignite civil war." The Abidjan hotel houses 800 UN peacekeepers who are protecting Ouattara and close allies.
The statement said, "Any attack against peacekeepers constitutes a crime under international law, for which the perpetrators and those who instigate them will be held accountable."
Alarmed over the development in Ivory Coast, the White House sent a Pentagon team to Abidjan on Tuesday to assess the situation and possible evacuation of its diplomats and citizens from the country.
The US and former colonial master, France, are considering the possibility of augmenting the UN troops, the State Department announced this week.
However, UN officials say there are 9,000 troops in the country and there is no immediate need for reinforcement.
A country with 20 million inhabitants, Ivory Coast was once a model of stability and prosperity in West Africa. The country has been in chaos since the 28 November elections when both candidates declared victory in the presidential bid.
The electoral commission of Ivory Coast declared the 68-year-old Outtara the winner in the polls that was certified by the UN, which was rejected by the constitutional council, chaired by a Gbagbo ally.
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