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Warring Sides in Ivory Coast Condemn Sanctions

Supporters of Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo and northern rebels are both accusing the United Nations of failing to understand the civil war, after some of their leaders are slapped with sanctions.

Rebel spokesman Sidiki Konate says the decision by the Security Council to sanction Fofie Kouakou, a commander in the northern Ivory Coast Korhogo zone, was in his words, "cowardly."

He said sanctions should only have been applied to those behind recent anti-U.N. violence in the government-held south.

Kouakou says he is fully engaged in the peace process. But the Security Council said he was interfering by recruiting militias, including child soldiers, abusing women, and ordering extrajudicial killings.

He has been slapped with a travel sanction and an asset freeze. Two pro-presidential youth leaders who led the protests last month, Eugene Djue and Charles Ble Goude, got the same treatment.

Djue tells VOA the sanctions will have little effect.

He says he has no assets abroad and no desire to travel.

But he says his children live in France, so he hopes, "they will not be frozen." He says his real sanction is not to be able to travel to northern Ivory Coast, where he is from.

Meanwhile, the United Nations is moving 200 peacekeepers from neighboring Liberia to help with its security in the commercial capital, Abidjan.

That is much less than the several thousand extra troops U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has been requesting. The third on the sanctions list, Ble Goude, says he is not surprised by Mr. Annan's lack of influence.

"Nothing depends on him, nothing depends on him, because he has been elected from the will of the powerful countries of this world that we live in - U.S., France, U.K. [Britain], so nothing depends on him," Goude said. "He is powerless, so I think the way that he is dealing with the Ivorian crisis, I know that nothing comes from him."

Mr. Annan has angered Mr. Gbagbo's supporters, by recently condemning his unilateral decision to extend the mandate of parliament, a body that has blocked political reforms included in successive peace deals.

That parliament will try to begin a special session later this week. An international working group recommendation that it be disbanded spurred the protests.

Last month's violence also spread to western cities, forcing some U.N. peacekeepers to evacuate their bases. Western militia leaders say the peacekeepers are no longer welcome, even though, a dozen people were reported dead in ethnic clashes this week and humanitarian workers have fled.

Ivory Coast has been divided in two since late 2002, while western parts of the country have remained extremely volatile. More than 10,000 French and U.N. troops monitor the cease-fire and police a buffer zone between government soldiers and rebels.