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Last Updated: Friday, 27 January 2006, 09:44 GMT
Sanctions threat for Ivory Coast
UN staff boarding a plane
UN workers fear renewed attacks
Some 400 civilian UN staff have left Ivory Coast, ahead of the possible imposition of sanctions on those accused of blocking the peace process.

UN envoy to Ivory Coast Pierre Schori said he feared further unrest if sanctions were imposed. A decision is expected in the coming days.

Supporters of President Laurent Gbagbo staged anti-UN protests last week.

Elections are due this year to reunify Ivory Coast, which has been divided since rebels seized the north in 2002.

Some 7,000 UN peacekeepers are in Ivory Coast to oversee the peace process.

'Vitriol'

Many Gbagbo supporters are upset at what they see as foreign interference in their internal affairs by the UN and former colonial power France.

They want the UN troops and a further 4,000 French soldiers to leave Ivory Coast.

IVORY COAST CONFLICT
Sept 2002: Dissident soldiers fail to overthrow President Gbagbo, but rebels seize north of country
May 2003: Armed forces sign ceasefire with rebel groups
Nov 2004: Ivorian air force attacks rebels; French forces destroy parts of Ivorian air force after nine of their soldiers killed. Violent anti-French protests prompt thousands of Westerners to leave
Oct 2005:UN extends President Gbagbo's mandate for 12 months and postpones elections

"Given the vitriolic messages we hear on the radio and in the media, we think that the next few days are not perhaps going to improve very much the situation," Mr Schori said after he briefed the UN Security Council in New York.

"No decision has been taken today [Thursday] but I think we are very close to a decision [on sanctions]," said France's UN envoy Jean-Marc de La Sabliere.

Diplomats say pro-Gbagbo youth leader Charles Ble Goude is top of the list of those likely to face sanctions, according to Reuters news agency.

Some 2,000 members of his Young Patriots group blockaded the UN base in the main city, Abidjan, and others cities in the loyalist south for several days last week - until he told them to return home.

Earlier this week, the World Food Programme stopped distributing food in Ivory Coast after its warehouses were looted and food aid destroyed near the western town of Guiglo.

UN bases became the target of anger after foreign mediators seeking an end to the civil war recommended suspending parliament.

Despite the recent tension, the new national unity government led by Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny met for the first time this week.

Main rebel leader Guillaume Soro failed to show up, but representatives from President Laurent Gbagbo's party were there after going back on their decision to pull out.

The call to dissolve parliament was seen as a way of preventing pro-Gbagbo MPs from holding up the peace process and boosting Mr Konan Banny's authority.


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