Côte d'Ivoire

Annan proposes to send mission to Ivory Coast

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New York (dpa) - U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Tuesday he plans to send a mission to study the possibility of deploying civilian and military observers in Ivory Coast to oversee the implementation of a peace agreement signed between the government and rebel groups.
He announced the plan in a closed-door meeting of the U.N. Security Council, which met to be appraised of the situation as violence was spreading in the West African nation.

The agreement signed last week between the government and rebel groups called for a government of national reconciliation and presidential elections to be held in 2005. The current president, Laurent Gbagbo, is to continue his function until elections.

The agreement urged the involvement of the U.N. and the West African economic group known as ECOWAS to find a solution to the conflict in Ivory Coast.

Annan informed the council that Gbagbo was encountering difficulties in implementing the agreement because of the spreading violence.

He said he will also appoint a special representative for Ivory Coast to oversee U.N. efforts in restoring peace and order there.

Under the leadership of French President Jacques Chirac, some African presidents and Annan met in Paris last weekend to commit Gbagbo to accept rebel groups in a government of reconciliation.

But the months of strife have now become more violent with the death on Tuesday of 15 people in inter-ethnic clashes, as many groups blamed the French government for selling out one side or the other.

Anti-French demonstrations in the capital Abidjan and the countryside continued for the fourth straight day.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva has ordered its field offices in Ivory Coast to suspend their operations because of the unrest.

A statement from Geneva said Tuesday, "Violent protests in Abidjan and a general climate of insecurity have led our security officers to instruct all staff to remain at home until the situation calms.''

UNHCR said Liberians who have taken refuge in Ivory Coast, to escape war in their own country, have begun to return home because of the violence. It said some 900 Liberians have been returned by buses and boats across the Calvaly river to Harper in Liberia since Saturday.

It said other Liberians have tried to register to return home. A total of 70,000 people have voluntarily left Ivory Coast to their own countries since November when fighting started, with the majority of them Liberians, the refugee agency said.

dpa tn pr AP-NY-01-28-03 1637EST

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Received by NewsEdge Insight: 01/28/2003 16:37:57

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