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Ivory Coast Protests Continue Despite Call for Calm


Violent protests by supporters of Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo have entered their fourth day in the government-controlled south. Protesters continue to demonstrate outside U.N. headquarters and the French embassy despite a call by the president and prime minister to leave the streets.

Several hundred supporters of Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo carried their protests in front of the French embassy in Abidjan into a fourth consecutive day.

Over a loudspeaker a leader of the pro-Gbagbo movement, known as the Young Patriots, called upon supporters to head to the U.N. headquarters and the city's main French military base.

Violent demonstrations continued across the war-divided country's government-held south, despite a call for calm late Wednesday by Ivorian leaders and the head of the African Union.

At the end of their emergency meeting, President Gbagbo, Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny, and acting AU chairman, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, called upon demonstrators to return home.

Pro-Gbagbo militants continued to mass outside the U.N. headquarters in Abidjan, throwing rocks and pieces of concrete at peacekeepers inside. Demonstrators surrounded a U.N. base in the city of Daloa for a third straight day. And Young Patriots occupied major intersections throughout Abidjan.

But the head of the Young Patriots, Charles Ble Goude, in a phone interview with VOA, said he was ready to withdraw his supporters from the streets.

"Were analyzing the decision that has been announced by President Obasanjo yesterday," he said. "So, we are now meeting to make a decision."

A presidential decree has officially banned public demonstrations in Abidjan since late 2004, when violent anti-French protests led by the Young Patriots forced the evacuation of around 8,000 foreign residents.

"We are not discussing the principle of leaving the streets," explained Charles Ble Goude. "We are discussing the manner, how we are going to tell them."

Protests targeting the United Nations and French peacekeeping forces in Ivory Coast began early Monday. Angry supporters of the president are demonstrating against a recommendation by foreign mediators not to renew the expired mandate of parliament. The legislative body is dominated by Mr. Gbagbo's supporters.

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