United Na­tions chief warns of Ivory Coast civil war

The Pak Banker - - International -

ABID­JAN: The U.N. chief has warned that Ivory Coast faces "a real risk" of re­turn to civil war, and that U.N. peace­keep­ers will face a crit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in the com­ing days un­less Lau­rent Gbagbo re­moves a block­ade around his op­po­nent's head­quar­ters.

The United Na­tions and other world lead­ers rec­og­nize Alas­sane Ou­at­tara as the win­ner of last month's dis­puted pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Gbagbo, the in­cum­bent who re­fuses to ac­knowl­edge de­feat and leave the pres­i­dency, has forces sur­round­ing the build­ing where his ri­val is based.

The U.N. has said that peo­ple in­side are not get­ting needed med­i­ca­tion, and that de­liv­ery of food and wa­ter also has been ham­pered.

"Any at­tempt to starve the United Na­tions mis­sion into sub­mis­sion will not be tol­er­ated," U.N. Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon said Tues­day.

Gbagbo or­dered U.N. peace­keep­ers out of the volatile West African coun­try over the week­end but the U.N. re­fused, in­stead ex­tend­ing the mis­sion's man­date through June. Hun­dreds of U.N. peace­keep­ers are guard­ing the Golf Ho­tel, where Ou­at­tara is based.

In a speech late Tues­day, Gbagbo said "the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity has de­clared war on Ivory Coast." "I call on those who are still in the Golf Ho­tel to go home," Gbagbo said. "No one will pre­vent you from leav­ing."

Fears have risen that U.N. per­son­nel and other for­eign­ers could be tar­geted in vi­o­lence as ten­sions mount over the elec­tion. Over the week­end, masked gun­men opened fire on the U.N. base in Ivory Coast, though no one from the global body was harmed in the at­tack. Two mil­i­tary ob­servers were wounded in an­other at­tack. The U.N. also says armed men have been in­timi- dat­ing U.N. staff at their pri­vate homes. Tous­saint Alain, an ad­viser for Gbagbo, said he didn't be­lieve sol­diers or peo­ple close to Gbagbo would carry out such acts.

The U.N. sec­re­tary-gen­eral also said Tues­day that the U.N. peace­keep­ing force in Ivory Coast has "con­firmed that mer­ce­nar­ies, in­clud­ing free­lance for­mer com­bat­ants from Liberia, have been re­cruited to tar­get cer­tain groups in the pop­u­la­tion."

Ivory Coast's 2002-2003 civil war saw the in­volve­ment of Liberi­ans fight­ing on nearly all sides of the con­flict. Liberia it­self suf­fered back-to-back civil wars that lasted un­til 2003, and the two coun­tries share a por­ous, 370-mile(600-kilo­me­ter-) long border.

Liberia's pres­i­dent has urged cit­i­zens not to get in­volved in Ivory Coast's lat­est po­lit­i­cal cri­sis.

Ban also said forces loyal to Gbagbo are also ob­struct­ing the move­ment of U.N. per­son­nel and their op­er­a­tions and called on mem­ber states to do what they can to sup­ply the U.N. mis­sion.

The U.N. says more than 50 peo­ple have been killed in re­cent days in Ivory Coast, and that it has re­ceived hun­dreds of re­ports of peo­ple be­ing ab­ducted from their homes at night by armed as­sailants in mil­i­tary uni­forms. U.N. High Com­mis­sioner for Hu­man Rights Navi Pil­lay has cited grow­ing ev­i­dence of "mas­sive vi­o­la­tions of hu­man rights."

Amnesty In­ter­na­tional on Tues­day said that it has also re­ceived re­ports from eye­wit­nesses of peo­ple be­ing ar­rested or ab­ducted, both at home and on the streets, by se­cu­rity forces loyal to Gbagbo. In a re­port, the group said that bod­ies have been found in morgues and on the streets, and that vi­o­lence and in­tim­i­da­tion has not been con­fined to Abid­jan. -Ap

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