UN chief warns that Ivory Coast risks civil war

United Nations–UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned Tuesday that the Ivory Coast faces "a real risk" of return to civil war with mercenaries being recruited from neighboring countries.

Ban thanked the UN General Assembly for its support for Africa's position, backed by the UN, that opposition leader Alassane Ouattara defeated President Laurent Gbagbo in the recent election.

Gbagbo has demanded that the UN peacekeeping force leave Ivory Coast, but a defiant UN Security Council extended the force's mandate for six months Monday and Ban said its role "is now even more critical" for the stability of the cocoa-producing West African nation and the region.

Ban said the UN peacekeeping force in Ivory Coast "has also confirmed that mercenaries, including freelance former combatants from Liberia, have been recruited to target certain groups in the population."

He said forces loyal to Gbagbo are also obstructing the movement of UN personnel and their operations.

The secretary-general said the disruption of "life-support supplies" for the UN mission and the Golf Hotel, where Ouattara is staying, "will put our peacekeepers in a critical situation in the coming few days."

And he called on member states to do what they can to supply the UN mission.

The secretary-general warned "any attempt to starve the United Nations mission into submission will not be tolerated."

"Those who perpetrate such acts, or who harm civilians, will be held accountable to the fullest extent under national and international human rights law," he said.

Ban called on member states to act quickly on Ouattara's request to rescind the credentials of Gbagbo's UN ambassador and recognize his choice for a new ambassador.

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