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Ivory Coast Security Minister Bans Protests Against UN - 2004-05-25

Ivory Coast's Minister of Interior Security has issued a decree banning protests against the United Nations in the country.

Minister Martin Bleou issued the statement saying the United Nations is in Ivory Coast at the request of President Gbagbo and therefore demonstrations against the organization are banned.

Meanwhile, women supporters of President Gbagbo staged a second demonstration outside U.N. headquarters in Abidjan demanding U.N. special envoy Albert Tevoedjre be removed and for the disarmament campaign to begin.

After the first demonstration demanding disarmament, the U.N. issued a statement saying they are in Ivory Coast only to support the government with the disarmament campaign but not to carry it out themselves.

U.N. spokesman Jean-Victor N'Kolo says the demonstrations barred access to U.N. headquarters, which violates the Security Council resolution guaranteeing freedom of movement by all U.N. personnel.

"It suffices to say if we cannot come and go freely to our work and so on in order to support the Ivorian people for the peace process then there is a problem clearly," he said. "So, we are happy to know that this is now being addressed and we will also take our own responsibilities and precautions not withstanding the responsibility and the commitments made by the government of Cote d'Ivoire."

Mr. N'Kolo also said that the decree is being issued to reiterate the points made by the minister before the first demonstration by a student group almost two weeks ago at the U.N. headquarters, known as ONUC.

"It must be said that Minister of Internal Security, Mr. Martin Bleou had already stated publicly on national television that Cote d'Ivoire was bound by international commitments and law," said Mr. N'Kolo. "That was on the eve of the demonstrations by the students of FESCI and he had already reiterated a position that is now being promulgated into a decree banning demonstrations and sitting in front of ONUCI."

The students were protesting a U.N. report on a government crackdown on a demonstration in March. The report said that 120 people had been killed and implicated the highest members of the Ivorian government who maintain the official death toll was 37.