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Ivory Coast Rejects UN Report on Deadly Attacks Against Opposition - 2004-05-06

The ruling party in Ivory Coast has rejected a U.N. report leaked to French media that accuses the government of directing deadly attacks against opposition and rebel supporters last March.

Former prime minister and head of the ruling Ivorian Popular Front, Pascal Affi Nguessan, speaking at a news conference, called the report a compilation of partisan and dishonest rumors.

The U.N. report, leaked this week to French media, accuses the highest government authorities of organizing the brutal security crackdown on the aborted March 25 civilian protest in Abidjan.

Mr. Nguessan said the term highest state authorities is too vague and that U.N. officials should not make such accusations lightly.

Widely quoted in Ivorian media, the report says security forces went on a rampage for several days after the aborted pro-peace march, breaking into the the homes of suspected opposition and rebel supporters and committing serious human rights violations, including torture, and executions. It says at least 120 people were killed, and more than 20 are still missing.

In his statement to reporters, Mr. Nguessan flatly rejected the report, calling its release to French media part of a pro-rebel propaganda campaign against President Laurent Gbagbo.

U.N. officials have said the report was shown to several governments, and that they do not know how it was leaked to the media. But they say news reports of the contents are accurate. They say the report will be formally presented to the Ivorian government, probably in the next few days, before its submission to the U.N. Security Council.

About 6,000 U.N. peacekeepers are being deployed in the divided Ivory Coast to help several-thousand French troops. A radical member of the ruling party, Desiree Miniaoti, says he is losing confidence in the United Nations.

"It will be very difficult for them to continue working in Cote d'Ivoire because it's a false [UN] report, it is not a true report. If they want to work in this country they have to be impartial," he said. "We are going to demonstrate that what they are doing is not good."

Rebel leader Guillaume Soro, who is on a tour of rebel-held areas, said Wednesday he accepts the report's findings and called for an indictment of President Gbagbo for war crimes. He said his rebel forces, which control the north of Ivory Coast, would disarm if Mr. Gbagbo resigned.

The ill-fated March 25 demonstration was organized by opposition parties to press for the full implementation of the French mediated peace agreement. Implementation of the agreement, which includes expanding rights to many northerners now treated as second class citizens, has been stalled since it was signed in January 2003.

Mr. Gbagbo said the march was an attempt to overthrow him.