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ECOWAS Members Ask UN for Help in Ivory Coast - 2003-11-11

Seven African heads of state meeting in Ghana have agreed to ask the United Nations for help in neighboring Ivory Coast.

Laurent Gbagbo, president of Ivory Coast, was among the seven heads of state, all members of the regional economic group ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States).

After a three hour of talks, a limited list of resolutions was given in a press release by ECOWAS executive secretary, Mohamed Ibn Chambas. Primarily, Mr. Chambas revealed that the heads of state had agreed to approach the United Nations to take steps to give the existing ECOWAS force in Ivory Coast a U.N. Security Council mandate. "The heads of state and government appeal to the United Nations Security Council to consider the possibility of increasing the French and the ECOWAS mission in Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and to transform it into a U.N.-peacekeeping force," he said.

An accord was also made to improve security for the ministers in Ivory Coast's government of reconciliation. By the end of the week, 80 police officers are to be deployed with the special task of guaranteeing ministers' safety.

Crucial items that had been on the agenda for Tuesday's summit, such as the matter of the long delayed program of disarmament, were dropped from the final press release.

Tuesday's meeting was the first time that Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo met his Burkinabe counterpart since they each accused the other of supporting coup plotters trying to topple their governments.

The two presidents left the meeting quickly and separately, though Mr. Chambas, who read out the press release, said the meeting had been held in a spirit of agreement and the discussions had been friendly and frank.

Other heads of state in attendance, were President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, Gnassingbe Eyadema of Togo, Blaise Compoare of Burkina Faso, Mathieu Kerekou of Benin and Mamadou Tanja of Niger as well as the host John Kufuor, President of Ghana.