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UN Authorizes Peacekeeping Force for Ivory Coast

The U.N. Security Council has authorized a 6,000 strong peacekeeping force for Ivory Coast. The United States will not contribute troops to the force, although it will pay more than a fourth of the cost.

The Security Council's vote Friday was unanimous. The United States, which earlier objected to the troop levels proposed, in the end accepted the 6,000 figure and voted "yes."

In a report to the Council last month, Secretary-General Kofi Annan had strongly recommended deployment of the Ivory Coast force. After the vote, he told Council members the peacekeepers would give a big boost to efforts to restore state authority and the rule of law in the war-divided country.

"The establishment of such an operation, which has been requested by all Ivorian parties, will send a clear message that the international community supports the Ivorian peace process and is determined to play its role in the maintenance of peace and security in Africa," he said.

Mr. Annan hailed efforts by President Laurent Gbagbo, Prime Minister Seydou Diarra and other Ivorian parties to break the impasse between rebels in the north and the government in the south. But he warned that, without international help, those efforts might easily fail in the face of hard-line opposition.

"There are some hard-line elements among the various Ivorian parties who remain determined to undermine the peace process. They must not be allowed to succeed," he said.

The decision to deploy a U.N. force in Ivory Coast follows an announcement by Prime Minister Diarra that the government would begin disarming fighters on March 8.

France, which already has 4,000 troops in Ivory Coast, proposed the additional U.N. force last month. Though no U.S. troops would be involved, the United States initially balked at the proposal, citing the cost. Washington pays more than 25 percent of the U.N. peacekeeping budget.

A spokesman at the United States' U.N. mission Friday said it was not clear where the money to pay for the new force would be found. He said it would have to come out of existing funds, because no new appropriations bills are likely to pass Congress before the November election.

Ivory Coast, the world's largest cocoa producer, was once West Africa's most prosperous and stable country. It was plunged into civil war in 2002 after a failed coup attempt against President Gbagbo that left the country divided between north and south.