Cote d'Ivoire closer to "brink of reigniting civil war": UN chief

11:32, February 26, 2011      

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UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon here Friday voiced deep concern over recent clashes in Cote d 'Ivoire, warning that the region comes closer to the "brink of reigniting civil war."

Fresh clashes erupted between forces loyal to Cote d'Ivoire's Laurent Gbagbo and rebels supporting Alassane Ouattara, in the capital Abidjan on Thursday in a country trapped in a political impasse.

In a statement issued here by Ban's spokesperson, the secretary- general called it a "deteriorating situation."

"These developments mark a disturbing escalation which draws the country closer to the brink of reigniting civil war," he said.

Also deploring the latest threats by Gbagbo's camp against the United Nations, he singled out the recent call "to impede the movement of peacekeepers in Abidjan beginning today."

"He demands an immediate end to such threats and to the ongoing obstruction of the activities of the peacekeepers, including their efforts to protect the civilian population," said the statement.

The secretary-general reiterated his call on both sides to " exercise maximum restraint and to extend their cooperation to the African Union (AU) High-Level Panel," the statement said.

In the statement, Ban further voiced his hopes that the panel will "expedite its discussions," and take decisions to further prevent violence and facilitate a peaceful settlement.

"The secretary-general reminds both the instigators and the perpetrators of acts of violence against the civilian population and the peacekeepers that they will be held accountable for their actions under international law," said the statement.

Since the landmark presidential run-off held on Nov. 28, both Gbagbo and opposition leader Ouattara claimed victory and swore themselves in as president of the country, and formed their respective governments.

The West African country has remained in impasse.

Gbagbo was backed by the country's Constitutional Council, while Ouattara has the support of the electoral commission and the international community including the United Nations, the AU, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

ECOWAS has been urging Gbagbo to step down and vowed the use of "legitimate force" if he fails to heed its immutable demand.

Gbagbo has been defying international requests, and has ordered the UN peacekeeping mission in Cote d'Ivoire, known as UNOCI, to leave the country.

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