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Ivory Coast Militants Seize Broadcaster, Call for Mass Demonstrations


Militant supporters of Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo seized the headquarters of state-run television and radio, in the third consecutive day of violent protests in the war-divided country's government-controlled south. Youth leaders called for a massive uprising, and U.N. peacekeepers have clashed with demonstrators.

Several hundred militant supporters of Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo stormed and seized the headquarters of Ivorian national television and radio, known as RTI.

Pro-Gbagbo militants, known as Young Patriots, forced RTI staff to allow them to broadcast an appeal to youth supporters to come out into the streets.

Youth leader Serge Koffi said in a televised address that a U.N. peacekeeping mission, and U.N.-mandated French soldiers had failed to resolve the crisis in the country. He said it is time for them to go.

Similar appeals for massive demonstrations broadcast on the state channel led to several days of anti-French violence in November 2004. At that time Young Patriot-organized protests sparked rioting, looting and the forced evacuation of around 8,000 foreign residents.

French military and U.N. sources said peacekeepers shot protesters at a military base in the city of Guiglo, killing four people and injuring 12. Several-hundred Young Patriots surrounded a U.N. compound in Daloa, where U.N. staff had sought refuge. The U.N. abandoned bases in Guiglo and nearby Duekoue.

In Abidjan, a large group of protesters blocked the entrance to the U.N. headquarters. About 1,000 Young Patriots, led by the head of the movement, Charles Ble Goude, protested outside the French embassy. Ble Goude said they were demanding the forced disarmament of northern rebels.

"We will stay here until we have a real response from the prime minister, from the international community, and from France," he said.

The president's supporters are protesting a recommendation by a U.N.-backed International Working Group to dissolve parliament. The mandate of the National Assembly expired in December. The body is dominated by the president's party and its allies and has been considered an obstacle to the implementation of successive peace efforts by opposition leaders and civil society representatives.

The head of Mr. Gbagbo's party said yesterday that its members were pulling out of the peace process.

The head of the U.N. mission in Ivory Coast, Pierre Schori, met with the president Tuesday to appeal for an end to the violence. U.N. Secretary-General Koffi Annan late Tuesday condemned what he called "orchestrated violence directed against the United Nations."