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Annan Calls for Calm in Ivory Coast - 2004-03-25

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has appealed for calm in the Ivory Coast. The appeal came as the Security Council took up the issue of cross-border problems in West Africa.

In a written statement, the secretary-general said he is deeply disturbed that Wednesday's anti-government demonstrations in Abidjan resulted in tragic loss of life.

At least six people were killed in clashes with government forces, and the protesters say there were many more deaths and close to 100 people injured.

Separately, in a speech to the Security Council Thursday on the problems in West Africa, Mr. Annan pointed an accusatory finger at the region's leaders. He said the root causes of the regional instability are linked to questions of governance, human rights and transparency.

"Regrettably, such abuses are all too prevalent in the region," he said. "Until they are addressed with real resolve, until there is a fundamental break with authoritarianism and the culture of violence, exclusion and impunity, I fear that whatever inroads we manage to make in handling cross-border problems will remain just that - temporary inroads, and fragile at best."

Mr. Annan, himself a West African, said any efforts to correct West Africa's problems must be made on a regional basis, involving Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast and his own country, Ghana.

The foreign minister of Ghana, Nana Akufo Ado also addressed Thursday's meeting. He called it unfortunate the session was being held against the backdrop of the previous day's events in Abidjan. But he said the overall picture in Ivory Coast has improved since the failed coup attempt of September 2002 that triggered a civil war and left the country divided.

"By and large there has been some degree of security and stability in Cote d'Ivoire," he said. "The fighting, the overt fighting between troops has certainly stopped, and what you see is a series of isolated individual incidents. Those are not matters that give cause for cheer, but there is certainly a large improvement over the situation as it was in September 2002."

The Security Council voted last month to create a new 6,000-strong peace-keeping force for Ivory Coast. Those blue-helmeted troops, due to deploy in a few days, will be in addition to 4,000 French soldiers already in the country.

The U.N.'s undersecretary for peacekeeping operations is to brief the Security Council Friday on the latest developments in Ivory Coast.