December 21, 2010 / 10:31 PM / 9 years ago

"Blockade" of U.N. in Ivory Coast gets critical - Ban

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon accused forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo in Ivory Coast on Tuesday of trying to blockade the U.N. mission there and said the situation could become critical within days.

Briefing the General Assembly, Ban appealed to U.N. member states to prepare to help supplies reach the mission, which is guarding a hotel serving as headquarters to Alassane Ouattara, who the United Nations said beat Gbagbo in a November 28 election.

Ivory Coast’s pro-Gbagbo Constitutional Council overturned results showing Ouattara had won the presidential poll that were certified by the U.N. mission chief in Ivory Coast.

The council declared Gbagbo the winner and he has continued to rule.

“The intention of Mr. Gbagbo and the security forces loyal to him is clearly to blockade the United Nations peacekeeping mission and to suffocate the government of President-elect Ouattara,” Ban said. “We cannot allow this.”

Those forces had blocked U.N. patrols, denied customs clearance of supplies at Abidjan port and prevented delivery of supplies for more than 800 U.N. troops and police at the Golf Hotel in the city, Ban said.

“I am concerned that this disruption of life-support supplies for the mission and the Golf Hotel will put our peacekeepers in a critical situation in the coming few days,” the U.N. chief said.

“I therefore strongly appeal to member states who are in a position to do so to prepare to support the mission to assist with the continued flow of supplies.”

U.N. peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy said he was worried armed groups loyal to Gbagbo might be preparing attacks against the U.N. force in Ivory Coast, known as UNOCI, which was attacked and forced to return fire on Saturday.

“We are getting reports that many others are preparing provocation acts, through Young Patriots or through other militias, towards UNOCI and we are very concerned about that,” Le Roy told reporters.

He added that state broadcaster RTI was airing calls for violence against the blue-helmeted troops in Ivory Coast.

Ban said UNOCI had confirmed that mercenaries, including former combatants from Liberia, had been recruited by the Gbagbo camp “to target certain groups in the population.”

Le Roy said there could also be mercenaries from Angola.

The U.N. chief said Ouattara had written to the United Nations asking for the credentials of the Gbagbo-appointed Ivory Coast ambassador to the United Nations, Alcide Djedje, to be withdrawn and for a replacement to be nominated.

Djedje is now serving as foreign minister to Gbagbo. The credentials issue must be addressed by a U.N. General Assembly committee.

Gbagbo said on Tuesday he would be willing to have an international committee re-examine the results of the disputed election to avoid another civil war.

He said on state television the committee could be headed by the African Union and also involve the West African organisation ECOWAS, the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, Russia and China.

Reporting by Patrick Worsnip and Louis Charbonneau; Editing by John O'Callaghan

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