UN warns of Ivory Coast civil war

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UN forces patrol outside the UN headquarters in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, after the disputed election

Ivory Coast risks returning to civil war unless former president Laurent Gbagbo accepts his election defeat, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon has warned.

The UN and world leaders recognise Alassane Ouattara as the winner of last month’s disputed presidential election.

But Mr Gbagbo has refused to remove his forces which are surrounding the building where his rival is based.

The UN has said those inside are not getting needed medication, and that delivery of food and water has also been hampered.

Mr Gbagbo ordered UN peacekeepers out of the country over the weekend but they refused to leave, instead extending the mission’s mandate to June. Hundreds of UN peacekeepers are guarding the Golf Hotel, where Mr Ouattara is based.

On Tuesday, Mr Gbagbo said “the international community has declared war on Ivory Coast”.

“I call on those who are still in the Golf Hotel to go home. No-one will prevent you from leaving.”

Fears have risen that UN personnel and other foreigners could be targeted in violence as tensions mount over the election.

Over the weekend, masked gunmen opened fire on the UN base in Ivory Coast, though no-one was harmed in the attack. Two military observers were wounded in another attack. The UN also says armed men have been intimidating UN staff at their private homes.

The UN secretary-general also said that the peacekeeping force in Ivory Coast has “confirmed that mercenaries, including freelance former combatants from Liberia, have been recruited to target certain groups in the population”.

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