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Ivory Coast Opposition, Plead For Help Against Attacks

Rebels and opposition politicians in Ivory Coast have pleaded for international help as attacks against them by the military and supporters of President Laurent Gbagbo continued for a second day Friday. The violence comes even though there are more than 10,000 peacekeepers in the country.

Military planes bombarded rebel positions in and around the western city of Vavoua Friday before flying deeper into rebel territory, while Ivorian troops advanced on several fronts.

About 30 kilometers south of the northern rebel stronghold of Bouake, there was a brief skirmish involving these advancing troops and rebel fighters.

But on roads leading to Vavoua and Bouake, hundreds of United Nations peacekeepers blocked off Ivorian army troops, by pointing their guns and tanks at them. The number of casualties from the recent attacks Friday was not immediately known.

During several bombing raids, which began Thursday, at least three people were reported killed in rebel areas and more than 40 injured. The casualties in the attacks included civilians.

A rebel spokesperson, Drissa Ouattara, expressed disappointment that U.N. peacekeepers and French forces are not doing more to prevent the aerial attacks and renewed fighting.

"What did they come to do in our country," he said. "I don't know but I am very scared in my body. We were relying on them that is why we have been engaged in this peace process. If now they can't protect this peace process they let Mr. Gbagbo come here and do what he wants we are very deceived, we are upset of the attitude of this community, very upset."

The United Nations says its mandate is to intervene to prevent hostilities from starting again and to protect civilians, while the French forces are mandated to provide logistical support and react quickly.

U.N. agencies decided to suspend their relief and humanitarian work throughout the country, because of the renewed fighting.

Meanwhile, in Abidjan, Friday, arson and looting attacks also continued, despite a ban issued by the government against any vandalism.

The headquarters of the main opposition party, the RDR, was almost completely burned down in the early morning hours.

At the headquarters of another opposition party, the former ruling military and supporters of President Laurent Gbagbo continued for a second day Friday PDCI, security guards walked through broken glass, describing how more than 100 supporters of Mr. Gbagbo looted the place late Thursday in less than 30 minutes.

Buildings housing opposition newspapers were also attacked. One opposition journalist was furious this happened because the burned down building of his newspaper is right next to French barracks.

"They let a minority do everything evil to people," said the journalist. "They came and broke everything and put fire to our computer and everything, everything."

Military officials say they aim to liberate the north of Ivory Coast, because rebels have failed to disarm despite agreeing to do so by a deadline of October 15 in the latest peace deal signed in late July in Ghana.

Rebels say President Gbagbo and his supporters have blocked implementation of key reforms, which were supposed to be passed before the end of September.

Fighting first erupted in September 2002, but ended quickly when French troops deployed, effectively dividing the world's leading cocoa producer in two.