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Ivory Coast President's Supporters Protest Against UN Report - 2004-05-13

Supporters of Ivory Coast's president, Laurent Gbagbo, staged the first in a planned series of protests against the United Nations over a report linking the government to recent atrocities committed by government security forces. VOA's Nico Colombant reports from Abidjan.

Several thousand university and high school students gathered outside U.N. headquarters in Abidjan, chanting, "Watch out ONUCI, here comes FESCI".

ONUCI is the French acronym for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast, while FESCI is the name of the main student association based in Abidjan.

The head of the association, Serge Kuyo, read a statement saying his group was protesting a recent U.N. report that described the association as a pro-government armed militia.

The U.N. report, leaked to the French media, blames government security forces and militias, including activists from the student association, for killing more than 100 unarmed civilians during and after an opposition demonstration calling for the implementation of a stalled peace agreement. One of the student protesters, Amadou Kamagate, denounced the U.N. report.

?We want to tell them today that we are a group of students and in their last document our structure has been qualified as having arms, as having participated in the events of the 25th [of March],? the student said. ?That is why we want to tell them that their role or what we want from them is to take the arms away from the rebels. That is why we have decided to come here in their main locale. We are tired and we want this war to stop.?

Security Minister Martin Bleou went on national television Wednesday, ordering the protesters away from the U.N. site, but the organizers refused.

Ivorian military and police allowed the protesters to march within several hundred meters of the U.N. compound, but prevented them from entering the grounds.

U.N. mission spokesman Jean Victor Nkolo says Ivorian authorities are responsible for the security of U.N. buildings and equipment.

He said that the mandate of the U.N. mission is to assist the government to organize disarmament. He says this mandate will not be dictated by people in the streets.

Mr. Nkolo also said the U.N. mission in Ivory Coast has nothing to do with the controversial U.N. report, which was written by independent investigators for another U.N. agency.

Pro-government activists are planning to hold further anti-U.N. protests later this month.