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UN Establishes Mission in Ivory Coast - 2003-06-27

The United Nations has formally established a new mission in Ivory Coast. Its role is to assist a difficult peace process, nine months after the start of a northern rebel insurgency that still divides the west African nation.

The United Nations Mission in Ivory Coast, known as MINUCI, opened a temporary office in Abidjan Friday, close to the presidential compound.

Its leader, Albert Tevoedjre, says the aim is to bolster the peace process, following the signing in France in January of what is known as the Marcoussis agreement.

"Our role here for us is to accompany the commitment of solving a big crisis, which led to the Marcoussis agreement on how to regovern the state of Cote d'Ivoire," he said.

Six months after the signing of the Marcoussis deal, a cease-fire has taken hold across Ivory Coast, and a power-sharing government with rebels is slowly establishing itself in Abidjan.

But little else from the accord has been achieved, including amnesty for the northern-based rebels, the naming of a consensus defense minister and new nationality laws to benefit the many immigrants from the north. In the meantime, northern areas remain under the control of armed rebels.

Mr. Tevoedjre's role has been criticized by lawmakers close to Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo, who say the peace deal amounts to what they call a constitutional coup.

The United Nations special envoy says he believes there is no other solution to preventing the war from starting all over.

"I'm very confident that the Ivorian people at this moment really are tired of fighting, are tired of the situation of crisis," said Albert Tevoedjre. "They want peace, and the president and the government know very well that the Marcoussis agreement is the only way out."

The United Nations mission in Ivory Coast has an initial mandate of six months. Its staff includes several dozen liaison military officers, humanitarian workers and democracy consultants.

Many observers fear northern Ivory Coast will remain under rebel control until at least the next scheduled presidential elections, in 2005.