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UN Disputes Reports of Killings in Ivory Coast Town


The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast has said it could find no signs of fighting in a city in government-held territory that was reportedly the scene of attacks Sunday. Whether it occurred or not, the alleged incident has provoked a violent reaction from militant youths loyal to the president.

The top military commander of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast, General Abdoulaye Fall, said Thursday he had seen no signs of killings in Agboville, where government forces say unidentified gunmen attacked a police station and prison.

UN peacekeepers arrived in Agboville late Wednesday in the company of Ivorian army chief Brigadier General Phillippe Mangou to tour the scene of the reported incident that has raised tensions in the war-divided nation and put in danger the fragile peace process. But, UN officials say they saw no indications there had been fighting in the city.

The U.N. visit did not go smoothly. The peacekeepers had been blocked from entering Agboville since Sunday, first by government forces and then by local villagers. And the United Nations confirmed that one of its soldiers was injured when he was struck by a rock thrown by a local resident as the contingent left the city, which is in government-held territory about 70 kilometers north of Abidjan.

Reports of attacks in Agboville and in the Abidjan suburb of Anyama provoked a quick response from militant supporters of President Laurent Gbagbo.

Jean Yves Dibopieu, a leader of the pro-Gbagbo youth movement, known as the Young Patriots, says the group will hold a meeting Saturday to decide what to do next.

On Monday in Abidjan, leaders of the Young Patriots accused opposition leaders of being behind the attacks and called on supporters to forcibly block the activities of the opposition.

Mr. Dibopieu says the group will take up its responsibilities against certain individuals in Abidjan.

Meanwhile, opposition leaders have called on the current mediator in Ivory Coast's nearly three-year old civil war, South African President Thabo Mbeki, to intervene.

The head of the opposition coalition, which calls itself the G7, Djedje Mady, says the group's intention is not to divide the population. He says he wants to highlight the real problems in order to find real solutions.

Mr. Mady also said the opposition is deeply worried about what will happen on October 30, the date currently scheduled for presidential elections.

The opposition has rejected legal reforms decreed by President Gbagbo, which had been a requirement of previous peace deals. And a northern rebel group, known as the New Forces, said Thursday it doesn't want to be a part of a proposed independent electoral commission unless legal changes were made to conform to agreements signed in the South African capital, Pretoria.

The second in charge of the UN's mission in Ivory Coast, Alan Doss, says recent events have been a major step away from progress made during the South African negotiations, which had been meant to clear the way for elections.

"Obviously violence of any kind wherever it comes from is not helpful," he said. "Quite the opposite, it makes people afraid. It makes them reluctant. It creates difficulties. And undoubtedly, that will have an effect on the election process, if that were to continue and become more widespread. I certainly hope that will not be the case."

Around 6,000 UN peacekeepers, and another 4,000 French troops under U.N. mandate, monitor a ceasefire between government forces in the south and rebels in the north. A reinforcement of the peacekeeping contingent is under way.