News / Africa

    UN Spokesman: Gbagbo Not Ivory Coast President

    UN peacekeepers from Jordan stand guard at the entrance to the Golf Hotel in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, (File Photo)
    UN peacekeepers from Jordan stand guard at the entrance to the Golf Hotel in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, (File Photo)
    Nico Colombant

    The United Nations says a request by incumbent Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo for all foreign peacekeepers to leave the divided country immediately is irrelevant. Ivorian state television issued a statement earlier Saturday accusing peacekeepers of siding with rebels and Mr. Gbagbo's presidential rival Alassane Ouattara.  

    U.N spokesman Michel Bonnardeaux says the world body, the African Union, the West African regional grouping ECOWAS, the former colonial power France, the United States and many other countries recognize Mr. Ouattara as the winner of last month's presidential election. The U.N. spokesman told VOA this means statements issued by Mr. Gbagbo are without effect.  

    He added Mr. Gbagbo is not the president of Ivory Coast.

    Bonnardeaux also explains it is up to the Security Council to decide whether to extend its peacekeeping mandate, which expires at the end of the year.  

    The spokesman also says the statement read on Ivorian state television is troubling because it comes after a U.N. patrol of peacekeepers from Bangladesh was attacked early Saturday.  He says that violates an accord with Ivory Coast.

    He says there are also troubling signs the Ivory Coast army is preparing to deploy an attack helicopter in Abidjan, which would go against an existing arms embargo.

    Bonnardeaux says U.N. peacekeepers will continue to try to protect civilians as well as the Golf hotel in Abidjan where Mr. Ouattara has set up his headquarters.

    Foreign peacekeepers in Ivory Coast also include a French rapid reaction force which is based near the Abidjan airport.

    Dozens of people were killed Thursday when forces loyal to Mr. Gbagbo stopped civilians and former rebels who control the north of the country from seizing the state television in Abidjan, the main commercial city in the south.

    A leader of the so-called Young Patriots, a group which has consistently protested in favor of Mr. Gbagbo, told VOA he was ready to die. He warned that if the international community wants Ivory Coast to "disappear",  he says it will disappear.

    Young Patriots are planning to gather near the Abidjan airport on Sunday.

    Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the former rebels says their side was running out of food at the Golf hotel headquarters of President-elect Ouattara. Afoussi Bamba said the barricades by the Ivorian army outside the hotel were preventing all access.

    She urged more international help.

    The conflict in Ivory Coast has been reignited since the Ivorian constitutional council threw out most votes from northern Ivory Coast, and said Mr. Gbagbo had won the disputed November 28th election. Ivory Coast has been cut in two since the start of the rebellion in 2002, with Mr. Gbagbo's forces still in control of the lucrative cocoa fields in the south, as well as the country's ports and state media.

    The Security Council is due to convene Monday in New York to discuss the escalating tensions.

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