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Ban Welcomes Steady Progress In Cote D'ivoire - UN

Secretary-General welcomes 'steady progress' in Côte d'Ivoire

16 April 2008 - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the "steady progress" - including the improving political and security environment, economic recovery and advances in identifying the population - that has been achieved in Côte d'Ivoire, in a report published today ahead of his visit to the West African nation next week.

The country became divided in 2002 between the Government-controlled south and the rebel Forces Nouvelles-held north, but last year's Ouagadougou Peace Agreement paved the way for an end to the conflict and included a provision calling for free and fair elections to be held.

Presidential polls were to be held as far back as 2005, but after having been delayed several times since, are now slated for 30 November.

The advances made since the signing of that pact "can be attributed to the sustained partnership between President [Laurent] Gbagbo and Prime Minister [Guillaume] Soro," as well as national ownership of the peace process, Mr. Ban noted.

"The parties should do everything possible to preserve the spirit of reconciliation, sustained dialogue and inclusiveness engendered by the Ouagadougou Agreement in order to keep the peace process on track," he wrote.

Additionally, the report underscored the necessity of promoting disarmament; the dismantling of militias; the rehabilitation and reintegration of ex-combatants; Côte d'Ivoire's reunification; and the reinstatement of State authority throughout the nation.

The Secretary-General - who is scheduled to meet Mr. Gbagbo this afternoon - also welcomed the agreement among the Ivorian parties to hold elections this year, but cautioned that "the road to the elections, however, is fraught with a treacherous mix of technical challenges, security and political risks."

The election process could also be hampered by serious funding gaps, which could potentially roll back progress made so far, he observed.

"While the elections will contribute to the consolidation of peace and stability in the country, they also bear serious risks, if they are not conducted in a transparent, fair and credible manner," Mr. Ban warned.

The UN Mission in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) reported last week that almost half a million Ivorians have received new birth certificates, the first step in a process to enable them to vote in national general elections.

ENDS

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