March 23, 2011 / 5:23 PM / 6 years ago

Nigeria urges firmer UN stance on Ivory Coast

4 Min Read

<p>Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan waves to the crowd as he leaves a campaign rally in Kano, northern Nigeria, March 16, 2011.Joe Penney</p>

ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan urged the United Nations on Wednesday to take more decisive action to end a political crisis in Ivory Coast, saying instability posed a threat to the security of West Africa.

Meanwhile, Angola said its position was in line with that of the African Union, which has endorsed Alassane Ouattara as the top cocoa grower's elected president despite incumbent Laurent Gbagbo's refusal to step down after a November 28 poll.

Opening a summit of heads of state from regional West African bloc ECOWAS, Jonathan said he hoped the standoff in the former French colony could be solved without the use of force but urged the world body to take firmer steps.

"I believe we can pass a resolution to request the United Nations to take a little more serious steps in the Cote d'Ivoire situation," he said at a the meeting attended by 12 of the 15 ECOWAS heads of state.

"We must not make the mistake of underestimating the threat it poses to the peace and security of the entire sub-region."

He did not spell out what stronger action he wanted the world body to take.

Nigeria is the linchpin of ECOWAS, which has threatened the use of force to push Gbagbo from power after he rejected U.N.-certified results that showed Ouattara won the election.

Around 400 Ivorians have died and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes since the disputed poll.

The U.N. peacekeeping mission to Ivory Coast said on Tuesday Gbagbo's forces were readying an attack helicopter and multiple rocket launchers, adding fuel to fear that the violent power struggle risks sending the country back to civil war.

Gbagbo's camp has accused foreign powers of meddling in Ivory Coast's internal affairs and also rejected charges that its forces are responsible for the majority of the abuses.

The United States and the European Union have imposed travel bans and other sanctions on Gbagbo and his inner circle.

But with uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa diverting world attention, West African nations -- in particular Nigeria with a U.N. Security Council seat -- must take the lead in pushing for any firmer action, diplomats say.

Nigerian Foreign Minister Odein Ajumogobia this week accused the international community of double standards by imposing a no-fly zone to protect civilians in Libya while doing little to end abuses in the world's top cocoa grower.

But African states have been at odds over Ivory Coast and although Nigeria and Sierra Leone see Gbagbo's defiance as a risk to regional efforts to nurture democracy, the threat of force issued by ECOWAS in December has become more muted.

Angola has been a close ally of Ggagbo's for years and analysts say the relationship has included military aid at least until very recently. Luanda's ambassador was one of a handful to attend Ggabgo's swearing-in and Angola has criticised the U.N. handing of the crisis.

Other countries have publicly criticised the way in which the United Nations, the African Union, ECOWAS and Western nations quickly recognised Ouattara as victor.

But Luanda has now thrown its weight behind the AU's endorsement of Ouattara.

"This position of the continental organisation is also that of Angola, which implies the appointment of an AU representative to accompany its implementation," Angop, Angola's state news agency, said on Wednesday after a briefing by Foreign Minister Georges Chikoti.

South Africa also backed the AU's position last week.

Jonathan is due to hand over the rotating chairmanship of ECOWAS this year. Few diplomats expect a decisive strategy on Ivory Coast to emerge from the meeting.

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