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UN Security Council Endorses Ivory Coast Transition Plan

The U.N. Security Council has backed an African Union plan for political transition in Ivory Coast. The plan would allow President Laurent Gbagbo to stay in office for another year with limited powers.

The Security Council Friday expressed support for plans to delay Ivory Coast's presidential election for as much as a year. President Laurent Gbagbo would stay in office during the interim period, but would share power with a prime minister acceptable to all parties.

Ivorian rebels and opposition groups have objected to the African Union-sponsored plan. They say President Gbagbo should step down when his term ends later this month.

But Council diplomats gave the plan their unanimous backing, saying it could prevent the West African country from slipping into political crisis.

The plan to hold elections by October 30 failed when the government and the opposition could not agree on ground rules. U.N. special envoy Pierre Schori Thursday took a dim view of the situation in Ivory Coast.

"There is too much anxiety and fear in the air and too many Kalashnikovs in the streets," said Mr. Schori. "Rampant insecurity seems to be the order of the day. This results from continued violations of human rights."

U.N. peacekeeping officials also voiced strong human rights concerns. They say disappearances, summary executions and death threats are a recurring problem, both in the government-controlled south and the rebel-held north.

Addressing the Council, Nigerian Foreign Minister Oluyemi Adeniji, whose country holds the rotating AU presidency, urged the Council to add more troops to the 7,000 strong U.N. peacekeeping force.

"Needless for me to say the hour to October 30 is ticking and steps are many to take on the ground in Cote d'Ivoire," he said.

Some diplomats have reacted coolly to the request for more peacekeepers in the absence of what the unanimously approved Council statement called "meaningful progress" toward implementing commitments made in a 2003 deal. That agreement ended a civil war that had split the world's largest cocoa producing nation in two, and set this month as the deadline for new elections.

Security Council diplomats are also working on a French-sponsored draft resolution that outlines the transition of power from President Gbagbo to a prime minister until a new president is elected. The resolution could come to a vote as early as next week.

But Mr. Gbagbo has repeatedly said he has a constitutional right to stay in power. Ivory Coast's U.N. Ambassador Philippe Djangone Bi said President Gbagbo insists on retaining a substantial share of his authority.

"We need a balance of power. The president should have some kind of authority, and the prime minister could have some part of this authority, but I'm not sure we should be moving toward an executive prime minister," he explained.

Civil war broke out in Ivory Coast after a failed coup in 2002. The Security Council has since passed a dozen resolutions in hopes of helping restore order there.

A report published this month by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group said if steps are not taken soon to settle the conflict, Ivory Coast could suffer the same fate as West African neighbors Sierra Leone and Liberia, which have endured decades of ethnic bloodletting.