The Security Council delegation visiting Africa wrapped up its visit today to Côte d'Ivoire, where the role of the United Nations in staging elections scheduled for later this year was the focus of discussions with the leaders of the divided West African country.
At a press conference in Abidjan, the Ivorian commercial capital, Ambassador Jorge Voto-Bernales of Peru said the group had held talks with President Laurent Gbagbo and Prime Minister Guillaume Soro.
Mr. Voto-Bernales said both leaders stressed that the UN - which operates a peacekeeping mission in Côte d'Ivoire known as UNOCI - should remain involved in the country, to certify the identification process, help in the organization of elections and to implement the peace agreement reached in March.
That accord, known as the Ouagadougou Peace Agreement, sets out a series of measures to deal with the political divide in Côte d'Ivoire, which has been split between the Government-controlled south and the rebel Forces Nouvelles-held north since 2002.
Among other steps, the agreement calls for creating a new transitional government, organizing free and fair presidential elections, and merging the Forces Nouvelles and the national defence and security forces through the establishment of an integrated command centre. It also calls for dismantling the militias, disarming ex-combatants and enrolling them in civil services programmes, as well as replacing the so-called zone of confidence separating north and south with a green line to be monitored by UNOCI.
Since the agreement was signed, Mr. Gbagbo and Mr. Soro of the Forces Nouvelles reached a separate pact designating Mr. Soro as the new Prime Minister, stipulating he will remain in office until presidential elections are held, and then barring him from running in that election.
Mr. Voto-Bernales said the Council delegation and the Ivorian officials discussed the modalities of how the UN can assist the process leading up to elections scheduled for later this year, as well as the elections themselves.
They also considered how to maintain the functions of the office of the UN High Representative for Elections, Gerard Stoudmann, and whether it would be included in the office of the Secretary-General's Special Representative.
During its stay in Côte d'Ivoire, the Council delegation also met Foreign Minister Michel Bassolet of Burkina Faso, which facilitated the Ouagadougou Peace Agreement.
Earlier, while visiting neighbouring Ghana, the delegation held talks with that country's President, John Kufuor, focusing on the planned hybrid UN-African Union peacekeeping force for Sudan's violence-wracked Darfur region.
The mission heads now to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the final stop on its five-nation tour in Africa, before returning to New York on Thursday.