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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 November, 2003, 23:36 GMT
UN troops 'needed' in Ivory Coast
The rebels refuse to disarm saying President Gbagbo is flouting the accord
West African leaders have called on the United Nations to consider deploying peacekeepers to Ivory Coast.

They made the appeal at the end of an emergency summit of the regional grouping Ecowas in Ghana.

The meeting was called to stop the breakdown of peace in Ivory Coast, which saw fighting erupt last year.

The rebels withdrew from a power-sharing government in September, accusing President Laurent Gbagbo of failing to honour a peace agreement.

The summit in the Ghanaian capital Accra was attended by Mr Gbagbo, and by the presidents of Ghana, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Niger, Togo and Benin.

The Ivorian rebels - who call themselves the New Forces and control half the country - were not represented.

President Laurent Gbagbo
Gbagbo's relations with some of Ivory Coast's neighbours are tense
At the end of the meeting the leaders issued in a statement urging the UN Security Council "to consider increasing the strength of the Ecowas mission and transform it into a UN peacekeeping force".

The fragile peace is enforced by the some 4,000 French and Ecowas troops, overseeing the ceasefire line between government-held south, and rebel-dominated north.

The summit statement also said the leaders agreed to send 80 extra police to guarantee the security of members of the power-sharing government.

Rebel ministers had previously complained that they were unable to work safely.

Mistrust

Relations between Ivory Coast and some of its neighbours have been strained since the conflict broke out in September last year.

Mr Gbagbo has accused Burkina Faso of backing the rebels - a charge it denies.

The executive secretary of Ecowas, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, said the Accra summit had been characterised by "frankness and openness because it was important that some of the mutual suspicion was dealt with".

After meeting for three hours the leaders flew home without speaking to reporters, but Mr Chambas denied that the summit ended abruptly.

West African leaders are keen to see the end of conflict in Ivory Coast, which is home to millions of immigrants from surrounding countries and used to be the region's economic hub.

Any return to hostilities could quickly spread chaos beyond Ivory Coast's borders.


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