Protesters ransack UN office in Cote d'Ivoire

Demonstrators ransacked the office of the United Nations Monday in the rebel-held central Cote d'Ivoire town of Bouake to protest the upcoming disarmament of the rebels.

A UN official told Xinhua that some 2,000 people marched through streets of Bouake to protest the UN for forcing the rebels to disarm.

Some protesters broke into the residence of UN military observers, smashing windows and doors and setting ablaze a warehouse, the official said.

Protesters also burnt tires and threw stones at UN peacekeepers,accusing them of breaching "neutralism" by forcing the rebels to lay down their arms, eyewitnesses said.

The UN mission in Cote d'Ivoire admitted that the peacekeepers had opened fire in the air. Three people were reportedly injured during the riots.

"Faced by an ever more threatening crowd, the UN's blue helmets,who had been given orders to show the utmost restraint, fired intothe air, as a warning," the UN mission said in a statement.

The UN urged all parties in the country to support related UN Security Council resolutions and its peacekeeping operations. It also called on the country's security forces to take measures to guarantee safety of UN staff and facilities.

Meanwhile, the rebel New Forces post a statement on the web Monday, warning that they would hold fast to their weapons until political reforms were carried out.

Political leaders of the New Forces also boycotted a day of talks that was expected to hammer out the final detail of the long-awaited program to disarm 30,000 combatants in the country.

Cote d'Ivoire plunged into a civil conflict after a failed coupin September 2002. The government and rebels signed a peace agreement in January 2003. But the implementation of the accord has been deadlocked and the country remains divided.

Under the Accra deal signed in July, the rebels would start to disarm by mid-October after President Laurent Gbagbo changes a constitutional clause prohibiting rebel leaders from running for president.

The United Nations has deployed a peacekeeping force of 6,000 troops in Cote d'Ivoire.

Source: Xinhua



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