The United Nations’ peacekeeping chief has apologized to Belarus for an erroneous report that Minsk violated a U.N. arms embargo against Ivory Coast by sending three attack helicopters to that country's embattled president Laurent Gbagbo.
Alain Le Roy said his office received a report from the U.N. mission in Ivory Coast that there was a deal afoot to bring attack helicopters into the country, which has seen growing clashes between supporters of the incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo, and the U.N.-certified winner of November's election, Alassane Ouattara.
The information came from the Security Council’s panel of experts charged with monitoring implementation of the arms embargo. But neither U.N. staff nor members of the panel of experts were able to enter the airport in the Ivorian capital, Yamoussoukro, to verify the plane’s landing and the contents of its cargo.
Le Roy said the panel has their own sources and he does not know what or who they are. But the information was sufficiently alarming that on Monday the U.N. Secretary-General issued a strong statement accusing Belarus of violating the arms embargo, a charge Minsk swiftly denied.
Le Roy told reporters it has now become clear the information was incorrect.
"But I must admit the report from the mission - and I now have full clarity on that, was a mistake," said Le Roy. "There was no plane landed that evening. It was a clear mistake. The report from the mission was a mistake. Therefore, I met this morning the charge d'affaires of Belarus and I expressed our deep regrets and our apologies for the damage caused to Belarus due to a wrong reporting from the mission."
He said there will be a full inquiry at the U.N. Mission for Ivory Coast to see how this incorrect information was transmitted to headquarters.
Le Roy said he appreciates Belarus’ compliance with the embargo and its reiteration Wednesday that it has checked and no private companies in Belarus are engaged in any arms deal with Ivory Coast.