In Burkina Faso, UN Chief Presses Ivory Coast for Progress

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has held talks in Burkina Faso, his third stop on a four-country tour of West Africa.  He met there with Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore to discuss the fragile situation in neighboring Ivory Coast. The U.N. leader also focused on climate change and increasing food costs which have spurred riots across West Africa.  Uma Ramiah reports from Ouagadougou.

Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon praised Mr. Compaore for his peace building efforts in Ivory Coast, but said the two agreed there was much work left to be done in the divided country.

Speaking in French, the official language of Burkina Faso, Mr. Ban urged Ivorian officials to speed up the peace process.  He encouraged leaders to work towards total disarmament, reunification and the restoration of government authority.

Ivory Coast has been divided since a rebellion broke out in 2002, with rebels in control of more than half the country.  A peace deal brokered by President Compaore last year extended President Laurent Gbagbo's mandate in power while appointing rebel leader Gillaume Soro as prime minister in a power-sharing agreement.

A presidential election in Ivory Coast is now set for November of this year.

Talks also focused on food riots across the region.

Burkina Faso, currently serving as a non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, has itself seen violence over rapidly rising food prices. Last month, a central market in the capital was set on fire by protesters angry about the high cost of living.

Switching to English to answer a question about how the U.N. would help Burkina Faso, Mr. Ban said he was aware that climate change, desertification and rocketing food prices were wreaking havoc on the country's economy.  He promised steadfast U.N. support.

"We have many United Nations agencies here who are working as one team, to help your country overcome and develop," he said.  "In that regard, you have my full cooperation and assurance that United Nations will always stand behind your very noble, but daunting, efforts."

After meeting with U.N. staff and visiting a local school in Ouagadougou, the U.N. chief headed to Ivory Coast, the last visit on his regional trip.

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