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UNITED NATIONS, Dec 18 (Reuters) - U.N. peacekeepers will remain in Ivory Coast and fulfill their mandate despite calls by incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo for all blue helmets to leave the country, the U.N. chief said on Saturday.
“The Secretary-General (Ban Ki-moon) is aware of statements by Mr. Gbagbo’s spokesperson calling for the withdrawal of the U.N. Operation in Cote d’Ivoire (UNOCI),” U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said in a statement on Ivory Coast.
“UNOCI will fulfill its mandate and will continue to monitor and document any human rights violations, incitement to hatred and violence, or attacks on U.N. peacekeepers,” spokesman Farhan Haq said in a statement.
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Ban has said that Gbagbo must step down and hand power over to opposition leader Alassane Ouattara, who the United Nations says won a run-off election last month.
The pro-Gbagbo Constitutional Council has rejected the U.N.-certified results that declared Ouattara the winner and says Gbagbo won the vote in the world’s top cocoa producer.
Gbagbo’s spokeswoman Jacqueline Oble read a statement on state television on Saturday saying the government wanted the UNOCI and French LICORNE missions forces to leave Ivory Coast, “and is opposed to any renewal of their mandate.”
“UNOCI has interfered seriously in the internal affairs of Ivory Coast,” she said.
The U.N. Security Council on Monday is planning to discuss the situation in Ivory Coast and the renewal of UNOCI’s mandate, which expires on Dec. 31.
Haq added that Ban was “deeply concerned about the attacks on a U.N. patrol and sentries at UNOCI HQ (headquarters) perpetrated by elements of the Ivorian security forces apparently loyal to Mr. Gbagbo.”
Ban was similarly concerned about an attack on U.N. military observers on Saturday that left two of the observers wounded, Haq said. (Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Philip Barbara and Eric Walsh)