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 Wednesday, 8 January, 2003, 08:22 GMT
US opposes UN force for Ivory Coast
French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, second right, visits a French army post in Ivory Coast
The French are currently monitoring a ceasefire
The United States has dismissed proposals to put peacekeeping operations in the volatile Ivory Coast under United Nations control.

We do not think that a UN force is the way to go

Richard Boucher
State Department
West African leaders drew up the plan earlier this week in the hope of restoring order to the country, wracked by violence since a rebel uprising began against the government in September.

But US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Washington did not believe a UN force was "appropriate" at this time.

US officials also said they believed that rebels in the west of the country were being supported by "elements" in Liberia.

Troops from former colonial power France are enforcing an uneasy ceasefire between the government and the main rebel group.

They have also been involved in fighting with other rebels in the west who do not consider themselves bound by the truce.

'Liberian hand'

The Ivorian Government has repeatedly accused Liberia of involvement in the conflict.

Last week it alleged that Liberian soldiers had been attacking villages.

An Ivorian rebel
The rebels want to overthrow President Gbagbo
The charges have been vehemently denied by Liberia, currently under UN sanctions for its perceived support of former rebels in Sierra Leone who waged a war until January 2002.

A US official, speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity, said Washington had asked Liberia to divulge any information on connections between the country and Ivory Coast rebels.

Talk trouble

Senegal, which holds the rotating presidency of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) made the proposal for a United Nations force earlier this week.

President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal hoped the French troops already in Ivory Coast along with soldiers from the regional peacekeeping force could wear UN blue helmets and work together.

Mr Wade told a news conference in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, that regional efforts to resolve the Ivory Coast crisis had failed - but he was confident a peace conference in Paris next week would bring results.

Mr Boucher of the US State Department said Washington believed that the presence of the 2,500 French troops and the upcoming summit rendered a UN peacekeeping force "not necessary" at this time.

One of the western rebel groups, the Popular Movement of Ivory Coast's Far West (MPIGO), has said it will not take part in the talks, but the French ambassador is trying to convince the rebels to attend.

A spokesman for the main group, Ivory Coast Patriotic Movement (MPCI) has also declared that recent clashes between French forces and rebels "seriously jeopardised" the talks, although he said the movement would send a delegation to Paris.

The French said they had killed some 30 rebels after being attacked near Duekoue on Monday, while nine of their men were wounded.

"There was a sort of joy and satisfaction when they spoke of the deaths of young Ivorians killed by French bullets," MPCI spokesman Sidiki Konate told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

He said that the MPCI would still go to the Paris talks but said the French must respect the western rebel groups, if they were to be credible mediators.

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See also:

05 Jan 03 | Africa
03 Jan 03 | Africa
02 Jan 03 | Africa
01 Jan 03 | Africa
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