January 18, 2011 / 5:39 PM / 9 years ago

Russia delays UN vote on more I.Coast troops: envoys

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday delayed a vote on sending additional troops to Ivory Coast, where the blue helmeted peacekeepers have been under attack, due to Russian objections, council envoys said.

A Bangladeshi UN soldier holds his weapon from an armoured vehicle during a patrol in Abidjan January 9, 2011. REUTERS/Luc Gnago

The 15-nation council was set to vote on a resolution to send an additional 2,000 peacekeepers to help the 10,000 U.N. troops and police in the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast, known as UNOCI. But diplomats said Russia raised last-minute objections on Tuesday morning about the language.

“It’s obviously a delay tactic,” one diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity. Another diplomat said council members would have to satisfy Moscow’s demands in order to get the resolution approved.

“We need Russia on board,” the diplomat said. “We have to listen to them.” He added that he hoped the council would vote on the troop increase on Wednesday at the latest.

British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant confirmed that Russia, whose oil giant Lukoil is exploring for crude in Ivory Coast, had issues with the draft resolution. “They want a delay in the vote,” he told reporters ahead of a council meeting.

Alassane Ouattara is widely recognized by Western and African governments as president-elect of Ivory Coast, after the electoral commission proclaimed him winner of the November 28 presidential poll. The results were certified by the U.N. mission but rejected by incumbent Laurent Ggagbo.

Gbagbo has refused to resign and retains control of government buildings, state television and the security forces, while Ouattara’s parallel administration is based in a U.N.-guarded hotel under siege by pro-Gbagbo forces.

Russia, like the United States, Britain, France and China, is a permanent veto-wielding council member and can prevent the passage of any Security Council measure.

The resolution, which was drafted by the French, has already been amended to accommodate Russian objections regarding the explicit naming of Ouattara, diplomats said.

A January 12 draft text welcomed declarations of the African Union and west African regional organization ECOWAS recognizing Ouattara as the president of the world’s top cocoa producer. The latest version does not mention Ouattara by name.

Reuters obtained both draft resolutions.

One diplomat said that Russia’s objections to the language “appeared minor on the surface.” The Russian delegation had asked to reorder several paragraphs and add language on “freedom of expression,” several diplomats said.

“They’re not substantive objections,” a diplomat said. “So we’re really not sure what they are trying to accomplish. The Russians have been causing problems on Ivory Coast from the beginning because they think we shouldn’t take sides.”

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