Côte d'Ivoire

Côte d'Ivoire: UN forces enter town after being blocked for 48 hours

United Nations peacekeeping forces in Côte d'Ivoire today entered the town of Agboville, 70 kilometres north of Abidjan, the strife-torn West African country's major city, after being blocked for 48 hours in their efforts to help restore calm following attacks by unidentified assailants.

The UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI), set up last year to help maintain a ceasefire between Government forces and the rebel Forces nouvelles, deployed troops to the region at the request of the Ivorian authorities after assailants attacked Agboville and a police post in Anyama on Saturday.

"UNOCI is keeping the United Nations Secretary-General and, through him, the Security Council fully apprised of developments as well as of dangerous incidents that may derail the peace process," the mission said in a news release on the attacks, barely three months before elections are to be held to end the conflict.

Fighting first erupted in 2002 when rebels seeking to oust President Laurent Gbagbo seized the north, splitting the world's largest cocoa producer into two.

UNOCI reiterated an appeal to all parties to maintain calm. It called on the Defence and Security Forces of Côte d'Ivoire (FDS) to ensure the protection of civilians and "invites all Ivorians to exercise restraint and to avoid acts or calls to violence during this sensitive juncture so as to allow a smooth implementation of the peace process."

The mission stressed that the attack could jeopardize the important progress made in the peace process, particularly in an agreement brokered by South African President Thabo Mbeki in Pretoria last month establishing a new timeline for disarmament and elections.

Earlier this month the Security Council demanded that all Ivorian parties and signatories "scrupulously comply" with all aspects of the new deal, the latest effort to revive a peace process deadlocked since April when talks faltered over the timetable.

Just 10 days ago Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced the appointment of former Portuguese Foreign Minister António Monteiro as autonomous High Representative for the elections, now scheduled for October.