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UN Pushes Back Elections in Ivory Coast for Another Year

The United Nations' elections supervisor in Ivory Coast, Gerard Stoudman, has said it will take another year to organize elections in the war-divided country.

The United Nations had already said elections would not be possible as designated by end October. Now, the top U.N. elections supervisor in Ivory Coast

has said they will not take place for another year.

In an earlier interview Gerard Stoudman told VOA creating electoral lists is a lengthy process. "The problem is not so much organizing the election. The election could be organized in three to four months. The problem is the electoral list. The key question is to have a credible electoral list that can be certified and recognized, not only by the international community, but above and before all by the Ivorian contenders," he said.

Millions of potential voters need to be identified, updating the electoral lists used when President Laurent Gbagbo won disputed elections in 2000.

This process started earlier this year, but was blocked by Gbagbo loyalists.

The other major stumbling block is the disarmament of rebels, who are in control of the north of Ivory Coast since a failed coup in 2002 spiralled into civil war.

And so the U.N.-backed peace process, which extended President Gbagbo's mandate till end October has stalled. Mr. Ggagbo says he will not step down until elections are held, and the rebels say they will not disarm until his presidential mandate is discussed.

Stoudman said it is absolutely crucial that elections do take place in the coming year.

Despite the current deadlock, however, he thinks the basis has been established. "In 2006 more progress has been made than ever before. In particular, by beginning the identification, by setting up the election commission, and by starting technical preparations for the elections," he said.

There is currently no plan for what is to happen after October, but the African Union's Peace and Security Council and the U.N. Security Council are meeting before then.

Last week, the Liberian government said the West African grouping, ECOWAS, would back Mr. Gbagbo to stay in power for a further year.