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UN Team Warns Against Obstruction of Peace in Ivory Coast - 2004-06-23

A 14-member United Nations Security Council delegation in Ivory Coast has warned political leaders and rebels to stop obstructing the stalled peace process. The delegation stopped short of saying it would call for sanctions against them.

Diplomats have been warning Ivorian political leaders, including President Laurent Gbagbo, and northern rebels, that they could face travel and financial sanctions due to their failure to implement the 18-month old peace agreement.

At a press conference late Wednesday after meetings with rival leaders of the conflict, the head of the Security Council mission, British Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry, said it was too early to bring up sanctions, but he said, there will have to be accountability from now on if the French-brokered accord continues to be blocked.

"I've made it clear that we would be prepared to support that process, but I also said that we would hold accountable those who are in the position to exercise political leadership," he said. "And if there are those out there who wish to obstruct, and who do obstruct, we will be quite clear to everybody who is actually involved in that, and in due time, the Council will have to take note of and consider. Those who wish to obstruct should not assume that it's business as usual if they obstruct."

Rebels and the opposition who have been boycotting the power-sharing unity government since March accuse President Gbagbo of blocking implementation of the deal. If implemented, it would give equal rights to many northerners now considered foreigners.

Another member of the delegation, French Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere said he was encouraged by his meetings Wednesday, but still very preoccupied.

He also said the United Nations had come as friends of Ivorians and that it was in his words intolerable that its peacekeeping mission was not being respected.

Supporters of Mr. Gbagbo have held violent protests outside U.N. headquarters and the French embassy in Abidjan calling on the more than 7,000 French and U.N. troops deployed to immediately disarm rebels.

Wednesday, several dozen anti-U.N. protesters gathered near the Abidjan hotel where the press conference took place, but the police prevented them from approaching.