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UN extends mission in troubled Ivory Coast

Associated Press / December 21, 2010

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ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast — The UN Security Council extended its peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast yesterday hours after the United Nations’ top envoy in the West African country said armed men had been threatening staff members in their homes.

Laurent Gbagbo’s refusal to concede defeat in last month’s election and his demand that peacekeepers leave has raised fears that UN personnel and other foreigners could be targeted in violence.

Over the weekend, masked gunmen opened fire on the UN base there, though no one from the global body was injured. Two military observers were wounded in another attack.

“Armed men have been coming to the personal houses of United Nations employees, asking them to leave and searching their houses under the pretext of looking for arms,’’ UN Special Representative Choi Young-jin said at a news conference in Abidjan.

Toussaint Alain, an adviser for Gbagbo, said in Paris that he doubted soldiers or those supporting Gbagbo would be involved in such tactics.

Gbagbo has ordered the peacekeeping force to leave Ivory Coast, claiming it is biased in favor of opposition leader Alassane Ouattara.

The UN and the international community recognize Ouattara as the victor of last month’s presidential runoff vote.

The UN has refused to leave, and the Security Council resolution adopted unanimously yesterday extended the mandate of the 8,650-strong force until June 30, 2011.

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