The elections, originally scheduled for as far back as 2005 and continually postponed since then, most recently from 29 November, are now expected to take place in March.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has forwarded the request from President Laurent Gbagbo of Côte d'Ivoire and President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso to the Security Council, which needs to authorize the three-month increase in strength of the UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) past its current level of 7,450, spokesman Martin Nesirky told a news briefing in New York today.
"The deployment of a unit from Burkina Faso would further strengthen the confidence of all Ivorian parties in the security arrangements for the elections," Mr. Ban said in a letter forwarding the request to the Council, citing the delay already encountered by the Ivorian Integrated Command Centre in setting up mixed units of 8,000 troops responsible for election security.
"So far, less than half of these troops have been sourced. In this context, we expect UNOCI and Licorne (a French military force supporting the UN), which have been mandated to provide support to the Integrated Command Centre and other Ivorian institutions responsible for securing the peace process, to be requested to play a broader role in election security than previously envisaged," Mr. Ban wrote.
He said the UN Secretariat would prepare the financial implications of the temporary increase in the coming days, adding: "It is also important to ensure that the deployment takes place by mid-February 2010, bearing in mind the time frame for the elections. In that context, the Secretariat is evaluating the capabilities of the proposed unit and the feasibility of its rapid deployment. In particular, the ability of the proposed unit to self-sustain will be critical."
Last month the Council called for credible presidential elections to be held at the earliest date possible following the latest postponement. UNOCI has been stationed in Côte d'Ivoire since 2004 to help ensure a ceasefire and pave the way for permanent peace and democratic elections.