UN chief rejects Gbagbo’s demands to retreat from Ivory Coast

AFP, Sunday 19 Dec 2010

UN's refusal to withdraw from Ivory Coast is only pushing the awaited confrontation with the international community to the corner

In this photo taken Thursday 16 December 2010, UN troops patrol in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. (AP)

UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Saturday rejected a demand that UN peacekeepers leave Ivory Coast, heightening the international confrontation with contested leader Laurent Gbagbo.

Ban also condemned attacks on UN troops in the West African nation and warned of "consequences" for those behind such action.

The UN mission, UNOCI, "will fulfil its mandate and will continue to monitor and document any human rights violations, incitement to hatred and violence, or attacks on UN peacekeepers," Ban was quoted as saying in a statement.

Gbagbo earlier ordered the 10,000 UN troops and 900 French forces in Ivory Coast to leave the country, accusing them of backing his rival Alassane Ouattara.

The United Nations and entire international community have backed Ouattara as winner of Ivory Coast's November 28 election, which was intended as a key stage in burying the legacy of the nation's 2002 civil war.

"The international community has spoken with one voice regarding Mr. Gbagbo's attempt to hold onto power," Ban said.

He added that statements of support for Ouattara by the West African regional bloc, ECOWAS, and the African Union "have shown that the African continent is united in its commitment to respect the democratically expressed will of the Ivorian people."

About 800 UN forces are protecting Ouattara's government headquarters in an Abidjan hotel, while Gbagbo retains the presidential palace and the loyalty of the Ivory Coast army.

Ban "is deeply concerned about the attacks on a UN patrol and sentries at UNOCI HQ perpetrated by elements of the Ivorian security forces apparently loyal to Mr. Gbagbo, and an attack on UN military observers by Young Patriots on Saturday, 18 December, which left two military observers wounded."

The Young Patriots also back Gbagbo.

Ban warned: "There will be consequences for those who have perpetrated or orchestrated any such actions or do so in the future."

The UN leader reaffirmed a warning made on Friday that "any attack on UN forces will be an attack on the international community and those responsible for these actions will be held accountable.

"Any continued actions obstructing and constricting UN operations are similarly unacceptable."

The UN Security Council is to discuss the Ivory Coast crisis on Monday and take a scheduled vote on whether to extend its current mandate which ends on December 31.

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