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Europe

EU eases sanctions on Ivory Coast as fighting continues

In response to a request from internationally recognized election winner Alassane Ouattara, the EU lifted a number of sanctions against Ivory Coast. But forces loyal to incumbent Laurent Gbagbo are gaining ground.

Armed men sitting on the back of a pick up truck

Accusations have been made against troops from both sides

Responding to a request from presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara, the European Union said it has eased sanctions on four entities in the Ivory Coast, including the ports of Abidjan and San Pedro.

The country's cocoa sector had been paralyzed by EU shipping restrictions since January. Earlier this week Ouattara, who is recognized by the international community as winner of November's presidential elections, vowed to restore security in the country and revive the economy, asking the EU to lift the sanctions.

Bags of cocoa beans

The EU imposed an assets freeze in January

In a statement, the Council of the European Unions said it had made the decision "in order to support the legitimate authorities of Cote d'Ivoire." Other sanctions against incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo and his aides - including travel restrictions - will remain in place.

Gbagbo strengthens his position

Meanwhile in Ivory Coast, UN peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy said Gbagbo's forces had gained some ground in the main city, Abidjan, in the past few days. Gbagbo himself is holed up in a bunker in the presidential residence.

Le Roy added that Gbagbo's forces were only a kilometer away from the hotel headquarters of Ouattara.

"They clearly used the lull of Tuesday as a trick to reinforce their position," Le Roy said, referring to a lull in the fighting after three generals sought talks but Gbagbo then refused to surrender.

People walking past a burnt out car on the street in Abidjan

Hundreds have fled Abidjan as violence continue

Fighters loyal to Ouattara, have been accused of new atrocities. Human Rights Watch said his supporters in the west of the country had killed or raped hundreds of people and burned villages during a rampage against Gbagbo loyalists in late March.

"To understand the tragic events in Ivory Coast, a line cannot be drawn between north and south, or supporters of Gbagbo and Ouattara," said Daniel Bekele, HRW's Africa director. "Unfortunately, there are those on both sides who have shown little regard for the dignity of human life."

On Friday, the UN said they had found over 100 bodies in the previous 24 hours. The United Nations, the United States and aid groups have warned of a looming humanitarian crisis in what was once one of the region's most stable and prosperous countries.

"The reports that the UN human rights team in Cote d'Ivoire are sending back are utterly horrifying," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in a statement.

Author: Joanna Impey (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

Editor: Sean Sinico

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