The United Nations has pulled hundreds of civilian staff out of Ivory Coast following violent attacks on peacekeepers in Abidjan and the west of the country. Diplomats expressed fear of fresh unrest as the Security Council prepares to impose sanctions on individuals blocking the country's peace process.
The U.N. special envoy to Ivory Coast Pierre Schori says about one-third of the estimated 1,200 U.N. civilian personnel in the West African nation have been temporarily relocated. After briefing the Security Council Thursday, Schori suggested the next few days could be tense. "Given the vitriolic messages we hear on the radio and in the media, we think the next few days are not perhaps going to improve very much, the situation. So we better take some measures," he said.
Schori played down suggestions that the relocation might be related to pending Security Council sanctions against a few individuals considered responsible for orchestrating recent violence. But several Council diplomats said a list of three or four people to be hit with targeted sanctions is ready, and the announcement was held up only to allow time for the evacuation.
Following Thursday's closed-door Council meeting, France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere suggested that the list would be made public within days.
"The members of the Council will continue to work in the coming days on a list, I would say a small list, this is the idea and no decision has been taken today, but we are very close to a decision," he said.
Council diplomats say the list contains the names of at least one senior leader of the Young Patriots group loyal to Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo.
U.N. peacekeeping officials blamed Gbagbo supporters for orchestrating a wave of violent anti-U.N. disturbances that swept Abidjan and other Ivorian cities last week. A group of Bangladeshi peacekeepers had to be evacuated from the western town of Guiglo after violent clashes the led to the death of four people.
Ivory Coast is the world's leading cocoa producer, and was once one of Africa's most stable and prosperous states. The country has been split between the government-controlled south and rebel-held north since 2002, after a failed attempt to oust President Gbagbo triggered a civil war.
The United Nations sent a force of 7,000 peacekeepers to the west African nation in 2003 to help the warring factions implement a peace agreement that ended the fighting.