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UN Peacekeepers Will Not Be ‘Intimidated’ by Ivorian Protests

  • Victoria Cavaliere

Local residents look on as a UN vehicle, set on fire by militant student supporters of Laurent Gbagbo, burns in the Riviera 2 neighborhood of Abidjan, 13 Jan 2011

United Nations officials say they remain concerned over violence in Ivory Coast, where mobs and security forces allied to the country’s leader have attacked U.N. troops and vehicles following November's disputed election.

U.N officials say they are still trying to formulate an approach to dealing with the rash of violence that broke out after Ivory Coast’s November 28 election.

But, at a briefing at U.N. headquarters, spokesman Martin Nesirky maintained supporters of incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo will not run out U.N. troops.

"The mission is working under difficult circumstance," said Nesirky. "It continues to work and will not be intimidated in the work that needs to be carried out. Its peacekeepers and police do carry out patrols and they will continue to do so."

Mr. Gbagbo has refused to give up power, despite a U.N. Security Council resolution recognizing his opponent, former prime minister Alassane Ouattara, as the election winner.
West African leaders have threatened to send in troops to remove Mr. Gbagbo if he will not cede power.

Meanwhile, U.N. officials say they will renew calls for emergency air to Sri Lanka, where at least 32 people have died and more than 300,000 are displaced after massive flooding this month.

Asked about recent protests in which flood victims attacked a government office accusing Sri Lankan officials of holding back relief supplies, Nesirky said only the UN is actively engaged in trying to get relief to those in need.

"A formal appeal, if you like, will be launched in the coming days," he said. "Clearly there is a demand and a need. And the United Nations, as we have been saying, here already last week, has been working to try to ensure that the most specific needs and the most pressing needs and so when they are they can be addressed."

The United Nations Assistant Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Catherine Bragg, is due to arrive Wednesday in Sir Lanka.