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UN Defends Role in Ivory Coast

Residents of the Treichville neighborhood gather outside the damaged former base of Laurent Gbagbo's Republican Guards, as soldiers loyal to Alassane Ouattara occupy it, in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, April 15, 2011

The United Nations' peacekeeping chief is defending the military action of U.N. troops in Ivory Coast, saying they fulfilled their mandate to protect civilians.

Alain Le Roy said Friday the U.N. Security Council had given the mission a clear and especially strong mandate to protect civilians against the use of heavy weapons.

United Nations and French helicopters this month fired on stockpiles of heavy weapons at army camps and the residence of defiant Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo. Gbagbo was trying to hold out against forces of the country's elected president, Alassane Ouattara.

This week, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev accused U.N. peacekeepers of taking sides in the Ivory Coast conflict and exceeding their mandate.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon has said the U.N. attacks were meant to prevent Gbagbo forces from attacking civilians.

The Ivory Coast crisis came to an end Monday when pro-Ouattara forces captured Gbagbo, who had refused to give up power after losing a November presidential election.

His refusal sparked a power struggle that the United Nations says killed hundreds of people and displaced more than a million, including 135,000 who fled into neighboring Liberia.

Le Roy said Gbagbo has been treated well since his arrest this week. However, he said Gbagbo's wife and son were beaten up by pro-Ouattara forces after their capture.

He said pro-Ouattara forces are not allowing U.N. troops inside the building where Gbagbo is being held. He said the U.N. troops are just outside.

The Ouattara government said Gbagbo is under house arrest at a villa somewhere in Ivory Coast, but has not said where. Judicial proceedings have been launched against Gbagbo, his wife and close associates.

Ouattara has vowed to hold accountable all those who committed crimes during the post-election unrest.

Both pro-Gbagbo and pro-Ouattara forces have been accused of killing and raping civilians since the political crisis began in December.

The United Nations has about 9,000 peacekeepers in Ivory Coast who were stationed there after a 2002 civil war.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.