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Côte d’Ivoire: protect threatened UN personnel

Annan reminds authorities in Côte d’Ivoire to protect threatened UN personnel

Expressing concern about reported threats against United Nations staff in Côte d’Ivoire, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan today reminded the West African country’s authorities that they bear personal responsibility for preventing violence.

In a statement released by his spokesman in New York, the Secretary-General urged the Government to forestall attacks targeted against UN personnel and installations throughout the country, as well as ethnically motivated fighting.

The new threats suggested the possibility of major violence in the commercial centre, Abidjan, as well as in other areas of Côte d’Ivoire, according to the statement.

If carried out, the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), supported as needed by UN Security Council-authorized French Licorne forces, “will take all necessary measures to protect United Nations personnel and property, as well as populations under imminent threats, in its areas of deployment,” the spokesman said.

Using “the strongest possible terms,” Mr. Annan underscored the personal responsibility borne by the highest civilian and military authorities of Côte d’Ivoire, including President Laurent Gbagbo and Chief of Staff General Philippe Mangou.

Violence “will not be tolerated by the international community,” the Secretary-General warned, repeating his call on all Ivorian parties to work with their international partners to seek a peaceful solution to the country’s crisis.

Hundreds of UN personnel were evacuated to Gambia and Senegal after their humanitarian and peacekeeping facilities were the targets of siege and looting during four days of violent protest last month led by pro-Gbagbo youths known as the Young Patriots.

They took to the streets after a UN-mandated mediation team, the International Working Group, said there was no need to prolong the life of the parliament, whose renewed mandate had expired again in the middle of last month.

On Sunday a spokesman for Mr. Annan voiced concern about Mr. Gbagbo’s weekend decree extending the Assembly and he stressed the need to avoid any unilateral action.

The Government has ruled the southern part of the country and the armed opposition has controlled the north since a coup attempt against Mr. Gbagbo failed in September 2002. UN peacekeeping troops and the Licorne forces are stationed mainly along the Zone of Confidence between the two regions.

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