Wed, Nov 17, 2004 - Page 6 News List

UN embargo slapped on Ivory Coast

INTRANSIGENCE After two years of fighting, the world body said that arms can't be sold to the strife-ridden country, and more sanctions could be enacted


A young woman with a child shows water drawn from a well on Monday in Djambrou, a poor neighborhood of Bouake. Electricity has been cut for most of the last week in the rebel-held north of the Ivory Coast, causing residents to reopen artesian wells in their courtyards, bringing the risk of epidemics such as cholera. Power and water were suspended for the second time since government airstrikes on key towns began on Nov. 4 in violation of an 18-month-old ceasefire, prompting renewed fears of a humanitarian crisis.


Frustrated by nearly two years of intransigence, the UN Security Council slapped an arms embargo on Ivory Coast and warned of more punitive sanctions unless the government revives peace efforts with rebels.

Ivory Coast has repeatedly ignored Security Council urgings to implement the French-brokered peace deal it agreed to in January last year that established a unity government. Chaos in the former West African economic powerhouse also could spread to neighboring, volatile nations.

The resolution, adopted unanimously Monday, imposes a 13-month arms embargo against Ivory Coast. The West African nation plunged into new turmoil Nov. 4 when government forces launched a new offensive against rebels in the north.

Two days later, France destroyed the country's modest air force after Ivorian jets bombed a military base, killing nine French peacekeepers and a US aid worker. That touched off violent demonstrations that led to the evacuation of more than 5,000 foreigners.

France's UN Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere stressed that the council's aim is to get the parties to resume peace negotiations as soon as possible.

"The Security Council has never stopped saying this, that there is no military solution for the crisis in Ivory Coast, there is only a political solution," de La Sabliere said.

The resolution would give the government and the rebels a month -- until Dec. 15 -- to get the peace process back on track or face a travel ban and asset freeze against those blocking peace, violating human rights and preventing the disarmament of combatants.

Also included in the ban would be anyone who incites public hatred or violence -- a reference to hate messages on television and radio that have whipped up anti-French crowds.

The decision to implement the embargo now instead of on Dec. 15 was made in response to a demand by African leaders, who had met in the Nigerian capital Abuja on Sunday to discuss the crisis.

Ivorian UN Ambassador Philippe Djangone-Bi said the government had already done its part toward fulfilling the peace deals. He refused to say if his country was planning to rearm and didn't directly answer when asked if his country would abide by the resolution.

"How do we ensure the security of our people, our government, our institutions, when the rebels through their channels can continue arming, as they have thus far?" Djangone-Bi said. "We will take note of it, but we want to make it clear that it is unfair."

Djangone-Bi said he was angry that Ivory Coast was not allowed to speak before the Security Council vote. He quietly observed the deliberations from a seat at the end of the council's horseshoe-shaped table.

The travel ban and asset freeze would last one year if the peace process isn't restarted. The council would then review Ivory Coast's progress and decide whether to continue the sanctions.

About 6,000 UN peacekeepers and 4,000 French troops are deployed in Ivory Coast, a former French colony, to try to monitor and promote peace in the wake of a civil war begun in September 2002. Maintaining peace there is seen as vital to regional efforts to recover from 1990s civil wars.

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