December 7, 2010 / 9:42 PM / 7 years ago

UPDATE 2-Russia blocks UN council Ivory Coast statement

3 Min Read

* West wants statement backing Ouattara as president-elect

* Russia says U.N. should not announce an election winner (Updates with meeting ending without agreement)

By Patrick Worsnip

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 7 (Reuters) - Russia on Tuesday blocked a U.N. Security Council statement that would recognize challenger Alassane Ouattara as the winner of Ivory Coast's disputed presidential election, diplomats said.

After five and a half hours of closed-door discussions, the council adjourned for the day with Russian envoys saying they needed further instructions from Moscow, the diplomats said.

Ivory Coast's electoral commission last week announced that Ouattara had won the Nov. 28 poll, but the Constitutional Council overturned the result, awarding victory to incumbent Laurent Gbagbo. The head of the U.N. mission in the West African nation, Y.J. Choi, declared Ouattara the winner.

"Russia questioned the U.N. announcing the winner," one Western envoy said in New York. Western officials have said Choi was entitled to do so as under a 2005 post-civil war peace deal he was empowered to certify election results.

"This is a unique situation," U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said.

"I don't know why Russia is quibbling with resolutions that it itself voted for," she told reporters, adding that Choi was "not picking a winner, he's simply certifying the results of the Independent Electoral Commission."

Endorsement of Ouattara by the Security Council would leave Gbagbo with few supporters in the outside world after West African regional bloc ECOWAS on Tuesday recognized Ouattara as president-elect. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has also publicly backed Ouattara's claim.

Russia's position is pivotal because Security Council statements must be unanimous, meaning any council member's opposition would block such a move. Rice, this month's council president, said she hoped debate could continue on Wednesday.

Rice suggested Russia was isolated. "Everybody on the council minus one member had no question about the legitimacy of (Choi's) findings and his actions," she said.

Earlier, in a brief public part of the council meeting, Choi told the council the election result was "very clear."

"There was only one winner, with a clear margin," he said by video link from Abuja, Nigeria, where ECOWAS was meeting.

"The moment has come for us to safeguard the result," he said. "Ignoring the will of the people at this stage would be a let-down of the people of (Ivory Coast) and a waste of significant resources invested over the past eight years by the international community."

Diplomats said that during the closed part of the council session, Choi said extensive checks made by hundreds of members of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast to verify the results left no doubt Ouattara had won.

The Constitutional Council's reversal of the result was "not based on facts," he was quoted as saying.

Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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