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Security Council Condemns Ivory Coast Protests, Stops Short of Sanctions


The U.N. Security Council has demanded a halt to violence in Ivory Coast and threatened personal sanctions against anyone blocking peace efforts. But, the council stopped short of taking action.

In a strong statement, the Security Council Thursday condemned the violent anti-U.N. protests that have hit several Ivory Coast cities this week.

The statement, read by Council President for January, Tanzanian Ambassador Augustine Mahiga, charged that the protests had been orchestrated by supporters of Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo and threatened action against those responsible.

"It underlines that targeted measures will be imposed against persons who, among other things block the implementation of the peace process, including by attacking or obstructing the action of the United Nations Operations in Cote d'Ivoire, of the French forces, or who incite public hatred and violence." he said.

The statement also expressed full support for the government of Ivorian Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan attended the closed-door council session, and afterward issued his own warning to the protesters.

"I think it is unfortunate that the population will be incited to take to the streets to criticize the forces that are there to help the situation, the forces that are there to encourage them to make peace," he said. "But those who are behaving this way ought to understand that the time will come when they may have to account for their acts and the destruction and the disruption they are causing to their own society."

Mr. Annan earlier called for adding about 3,800 troops to the current 7,600-strong U.N. peacekeeping force in Ivory Coast.

American diplomats at the U.N. told reporters Thursday that a broad inter-agency review of Ivory Coast policy is underway in Washington. In the meantime, Ambassador John Bolton says the United States will not support the secretary-general's request.

"At this point, as I say, our view is that we don't see a need to increase the U.N. forces in Cote d'Ivoire," he said.

Ambassador Bolton's comments reflected a general uncertainty among council members about how to respond to the violence in Ivory Coast.

Diplomats who attended the closed-door council session said there is a concern that placing sanctions on the country's leaders might aggravate tensions. Rather than imposing sanctions, they say the council is likely to draw up a watch list of those instigating the violence.

The difficulty of developing an adequate response was exemplified by the contrasting public and private statements by U.N. peacekeeping chief Jean-Marie Guehenno. As he emerged from the meeting, Mr. Guehenno spoke of taking action against those behind the violence.

"So the people who instigate that violence, who propagate hatred messages, have to know that the Council is moving closer and closer to taking very tough decisions," he said.

But behind closed doors, Mr. Guehenno was quoted as saying that U.N. officials in Ivory Coast worry that threatening the country's leaders may lead them to believe they have nothing more to lose, making it more difficult to find a way out of the current crisis.