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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 April, 2004, 18:40 GMT 19:40 UK
UN troops arrive in Ivory Coast
Burning barricade
The opposition says 300 were killed in recent clashes
The first peacekeepers of a United Nations contingent have arrived in Ivory Coast after a surge in violence in the country in the past week.

Thirty military officers and five civilian police officers arrived in the main city of Abidjan.

Spokesman Jean Victor Nkolo said the peacekeepers have powers to use force to protect the peace process.

There had been speculation that recent violence would delay the deployment of the peacekeepers.

The UN force will replace French and African troops who are manning a buffer zone between the rebel-held north and government forces in the south.

Shaky peace

Scores were killed in violent clashes between security forces and opposition supporters who attempted to hold a protest rally last week.

The opposition puts the death toll at 300, but security forces insist that the total number of dead has not exceeded 37 - including two policemen.

The new UN force is to have 6,240 personnel, including 200 military observers, 120 staff officers and up to 350 civilian police.

It will be known as UNOCI - the UN Operation in Cote d'Ivoire.

"If there are situations which seriously threaten the peace process even if they are social disturbances the troops will move in to restore order," Mr Nkolo told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

He said the UN peacekeepers will arrive in progressive batches.

There has been little fighting since a peace deal was signed in January 2003.

But last week's violence led the former rebels and opposition political parties to leave a power-sharing government, casting new doubts over the peace process.

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