173 killed in Ivory Coast clashes

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UN forces patrol a street, in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, where the UN says 173 people have been killed (AP)

At least 173 people have been killed and dozens of others have gone missing following Ivory Coast’s disputed presidential election, the UN has said.

UN deputy human rights commissioner Kyung-wha Kang told diplomats in Geneva that at least 471 arrests and detentions were recorded between December 16 and 21.

She said restrictions imposed on UN personnel in the West African nation have made it “impossible” to investigate all the allegations about serious human rights violations – including reports of mass graves.

She told the UN Human Rights Council at a special session on Ivory Coast that 90 other people had been tortured or treated inhumanely, and that there had been 24 cases of disappearances.

The United Nations and other world leaders recognise Alassane Ouattara as the winner of the November 28 run-off vote.

His prime minister, Guillaume Soro, has urged the UN, European Union, African Union and others to consider intervening to push incumbent Laurent Gbagbo out.

The United States says it is discussing ways to help quell the post-election violence in Ivory Coast with France and other countries. The United States and the EU are imposing sanctions targeting Gbagbo, his wife and political allies. Hundreds of UN peacekeepers have been protecting the hotel where Ouattara is based.

Over the weekend, Gbagbo ordered all UN peacekeepers out of the country immediately in an escalation of tensions. The UN considers Ouattara president and is staying put, raising fears that UN personnel and other foreigners could be targeted.

Ivory Coast was once an economic hub because of its role as the world’s top cocoa producer, but the 2002-2003 civil war split the country into a rebel-controlled north and a loyalist south. While the country officially reunited in a 2007 peace deal, Ouattara still draws his support from the north while Gbagbo’s power base is in the south.

Gbagbo claimed victory in the presidential election only after his allies threw out half a million ballots from Ouattara strongholds in the north.

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