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UN: $85 Million Needed to Help Ivory Coast Civilians Caught in War - 2003-04-29

United Nations agencies are appealing for $85 million to help three million civilians affected by the war in Ivory Coast. The appeal comes as steps are being made to restore security in the west of the country where the seven-month conflict continues.

U.N. humanitarian envoy Carolyn McAskie said aid can help stop the fighting in Ivory Coast.

"I am convinced that we need to address humanitarian issues to reconstruct a culture of peace in Ivory Coast and help rebuild confidence between the different communities. If we can do this it will be a clear message that the well-being of civilians is the first priority," she said.

Aid agencies say they need money to help civilians both inside Ivory Coast and outside. The United Nations says the $85 million request covers food, medical care, social services and other types of aid.

Since Ivorian rebels began their insurgency last September, an estimated 400,000 immigrants fled to their home countries, mostly Liberia, Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea.

U.N. officials say there is a growing need for food and clean water in western regions near the Ivorian border with Liberia. Fighting in that area, involving mercenaries from Liberia and Sierra Leone, has recently escalated.

Ivory Coast Prime Minister Seydou Diarra said his government is counting on international help to ensure the situation in western Ivory Coast can be contained.

Prime Minister Diarra also said humanitarian aid must go hand in hand with finding a political solution to the crisis. Mr. Diarra is currently holding negotiations to fill the key ministries of the interior and defense in a power-sharing government with rebels.

Army chiefs from Ivory Coast and Liberia were due to meet in Abidjan on Tuesday, to discuss sending an international force to western Ivory Coast. That meeting has now been delayed until Wednesday.