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Côte d’Ivoire: Security Council threatens sanction

Côte d’Ivoire: Annan appeals for calm as Security Council threatens sanctions

Saying that the United Nations is not a protagonist in Côte d’Ivoire, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today appealed to the leaders in the West African country to work together to restore calm after protesters opposing the possible dissolution of parliament demonstrated outside UN offices for a fourth day, prompting the Security Council to threaten sanctions.

“I think it is unfortunate that the population would be incited to take to the streets to criticize the forces that are there to help the situation, the forces that are there to encourage them to make peace,” he told journalists outside the Security Council where its 15 members were discussing their next steps in closed session.

As a basis for discussion, the Council had the Secretary-General’s latest report on Côte d’Ivoire, which calls for an expansion of the UN force in the country. While this notion had not previously received support, Mr. Annan said developments on the ground had made the case for a larger UN mission.

In addition to UN-authorized French forces, the UN mission, known by its French acronym ONUCI, now numbers 6,891 soldiers and 697 international police. Mr Annan has asked for an additional 3,400 soldiers and 475 police officers.

On the diplomatic front, Mr. Annan said he was in touch with President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, the chairman of the African Union (AU), who went to Abidjan yesterday to talk to Ivorian leaders, and with President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, who has been the AU-designated mediator.

The demonstrations outside the ONUCI headquarters started on Monday, opposing a non-binding recommendation by the UN-authorized International Working Group that would have effectively disbanded the National Assembly, whose mandate had ended.

The move would have reduced the powers of President Laurent Gbagbo and given wide-ranging powers to newly appointed Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny and his national-unity cabinet, which includes leaders of the armed and unarmed opposition.

Mr. Annan warned that in time, those responsible “the time will come when they may have to account for their acts and the disruption they are causing to their own society.”

He appealed to all Ivorian citizens “to work together with the Government and for the Prime Minister and the President to work together to implement the road map, to work together to bring peace in the interest of the people and in the interest of the nation.

“It is their responsibility and their duty and the international community is there to assist them. We are not the protagonists and they should work with us to implement the road map,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Security Council today adopted a presidential statement endorsing the IWG’s final communiqué containing the controversial recommendation and strongly condemning the violent attacks on ONUCI and international NGO facilities “by street militias and other groups associated with the ‘Young Patriots,’ as well as their instigators.”

The Council’s current President, Ambassador Augustine P. Mahiga of Tanzania, citing previous resolutions, warned that targeted measures will be imposed against persons “who among other things, block the implementation of the peace process, including by attacking or obstructing the action of UNOCI, of the French Forces, of the High Representative for the elections or of the International Working Group, or who incite publicly hatred and violence.”

The Council called on all Ivorians to refrain from any hostile action and demanded that all hate messages in the media cease and that effective control by the board and General Director over Radio Télévision Ivoirienne be re-established at once.

From Abidjan, UN Humanitarian Coordinator Abdoulaye Mar Dieye expressed his regret for the loss of civilian life and his grave concern over the destruction of the offices of several relief groups. He called “for an immediate end to the incitements for protesters to target humanitarian personnel.”

In New York, the head of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), Under-Secretary-General Jean-Marie Guéhenno, told reporters there would be no progress in the absence of a functioning government accepted by all and voiced hope that Mr. Gbagbo and Mr. Banny together would restore order.

Although the situation in some cities and towns had improved today, “the Young Patriots have been harassing international personnel,” he said.

He noted that the question of Ivorian identity was a sensitive one with regard to elections. The process of disarmament, also sensitive, had to be carried out in the rebel-controlled north at the same time as in the Government-ruled south, he noted, adding that this would require a strengthened UN mission.

In answer to a question, Mr. Guéhenno pointed out such significant UN achievements last year as the completion of the peacekeeping mission in Sierra Leone, the elections in Burundi and Afghanistan and the constitutional referendum in DRC. “But they are always achieved with a very limited amount of resources, so they are always fragile.”

The Council, by putting so many tasks on the shoulders of the UN, has recognized the importance of peacekeeping as a fundamental tool to prevent conflicts from escalating and civil wars from resuming. “If that instrument is to be preserved, it has to be properly resourced,” he said.

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