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April 07, 2011

UN: 100 Bodies Found in Ivory Coast in 24 Hours

United Nations officials say investigators have found more than 100 bodies in western Ivory Coast in the past 24 hours.

A spokesman for the U.N. human rights agency said bodies were found in more than one location and most of the deaths seemed to be "ethnically motivated."

On Thursday, Ivory Coast's internationally recognized President Alassane Ouattara asked all Ivorians to refrain from acts of violence.

In a televised speech,  Ouattara said his forces have set up a blockade around the presidential compound in Abidjan, where his rival Laurent Gbagbo is barricaded.  

Ouattara blamed his rival for the humanitarian crisis now gripping the country.  

Gbagbo claims he won the November election, and he refuses to step down.

Ouattara also urged the European Union to lift sanctions on ports and public utilities and called on the West African central bank to reopen branches in Ivory Coast.

The U.N. is investigating reports of massacres in the western town of Duekoue, which pro-Ouattara forces seized from Gbagbo troops last week.  Both sides have been blamed in hundreds of civilian deaths since post-election fighting began in December.  

French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet says  Gbagbo still commands about 1,000 men in Abidjan, 200 of them at the palace compound.  These forces used heavy weapons Wednesday to repel pro-Ouattara's troops trying to enter the palace.

The U.N. says about 1 million Ivorians have fled their homes since the fighting began.