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UN Expresses Concern Over Ivory Coast Security

The United Nations peacekeeping mission in divided Ivory Coast says it needs more troops, amid allegations the peacekeepers are not doing enough in the face of growing insecurity.

Alan Doss, the acting U.N. special representative for Ivory Coast, says the U.N. peacekeeping force in Ivory Coast is not adequate to ensure security. Mr. Doss told a news conference in Abidjan, he hopes the U.N. Security Council will increase the number of U.N. peacekeepers in the country.

"Throughout the country, we want to be sure the security situation is guaranteed, but there are limits," he said. "We are a small force. It may not seem like [it], but we have 5,000 troops here… 6,000. My previous assignment was in Sierra Leone - I keep repeating this - where a country, which is a third of the size, a third of the population [of Ivory Coast], we had three times the number of troops."

Local media have strongly criticized the United Nations force, saying the peacekeepers are not doing enough to enforce security. On Wednesday, a French businessman based in Abidjan was shot and wounded by unknown assailants. Mr. Doss condemned the attack, and warned such attacks harm the country's chances of drawing foreign investment.

"We find this very disturbing, an attack on a prominent individual, very active in the business community," he added. "We deplore it. But beyond that, the economy has to get back on its feet, and if businessmen, wherever they come from, are attacked, it can't be good for the economy."

Many foreigners working and doing business in Ivory Coast left following rioting and looting last November, much of it directed against foreigners. The violence erupted after French troops destroyed most of Ivory Coast's military airplanes in retaliation for the killing of several French soldiers during a government attack on a rebel area.

A French rapid reaction force of about 4,000 troops has been helping U.N. peacekeepers monitor the front-line between government-held southern areas and rebels in the north.

The renewed fighting prompted the U.N. Security Council to impose an arms embargo on all sides. It was recently reinforced, allowing U.N. and French monitors to conduct weapons searches without prior warning.

The new head of the armed forces in Ivory Coast, Philippe Mangou, said Thursday, the United Nations must give prior notice to the government before any such search.