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Cote D’ivoire: Foreigners Seek Refuge UN Buildings

Situation In Cote D’ivoire Remains Tense As Foreigners Seek Refuge In UN Buildings

The situation in Cote d’Ivoire continues to cause great concern, foreign nationals have sought refuge in United Nations buildings and the atmosphere in the commercial capital of Abidjan remains very tense and volatile despite the restoration of relative calm following several days of violence in the West African county.

The UN Operation in Cote d’Ivoire (UNOCI) reported today that the mission was monitoring the ceasefire agreement between Government and rebel forces, while unruly mobs were roaming some streets in Abidjan and hate media broadcasts aimed at foreigners continued. It said some 800 foreign nationals had sought refuge within UN compounds and sites and were being protected by UN peacekeepers.

Fighting flared last Thursday when the Government violated the ceasefire by launching an attack in the Zone of Confidence (ZOC) in the north of the country separating the combatants. On Saturday Government aircraft bombed French peacekeeping forces in the area, killing nine people and leading the French to destroy the country’s air force. Supporters of President Laurent Gbagbo then took to the streets of Abidjan in retaliation, harassing and intimidating foreigners.

The Security Council condemned the attacks and demanded the immediate cessation of all military operations by all parties and full compliance with the ceasefire agreements.

UNOCI reported today that Government forces had now withdrawn south from the ZOC. UN forces are protecting many Government officials as well as UN personnel and property and some UN troops have been redeployed from the north to reinforce UNOCI positions in Abidjan.

“We welcome President Gbagbo’s appeal for calm but note with concern the continuing ‘messages of hate’ being broadcast over public radio and television as well as other local FM stations encouraging Ivorians to take to the streets,” UNOCI spokesman Jean-Victor Nkolo said.

Mr. Nkolo told UN Radio that the mission had now raised to level four the security level throughout the country, meaning that where conditions permit, non-essential staff will be evacuated. There have so far been no evacuations.

He called for a full and immediate cessation of all hostilities in order to put the peace process back on track since the ceasefire agreements that ended the civil war “remain the only solution out of this crisis.”

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