The UN says at least 50 people have been killed in the post-election crisis in Ivory Coast. The UN's Ban Ki-moon says peacekeepers there will not stand down from their mission and warned against attacks on UN troops.
The security situation in Ivory Coast is deteriorating
The United Nations and the European Union are increasing the pressure on Laurent Gbagbo, who is clinging to power despite clear indications that he lost last month's presidential poll to Alassane Quattara, who has been recognized as the winner by the international community. On Monday, the EU imposed a visa ban on Gbagbo and 18 other high-ranking officials. An assets freeze could also come into effect later this week. The US and Canada have also threatened to impose sanctions.
Earlier, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon rejected a demand from the contested Ivory Coast government that UN peacekeepers leave the country. Former colonial power France also confirmed that its forces would stay.
Nations' human rights chief said Sunday that more than 50 people have been killed and "massive violations of human rights" have taken place in Ivory Coast since Thursday.
Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the UN had received reports of hundreds of people being abducted by military and militia members close to Laurant Gbagbo, some of whom were later found dead.
One of Gbagbo's military leaders urged young people to prepare for combat with the UN and French peacekeepers. But Ban warned troops loyal to Gbagbo not to consider attacking international peacekeepers.
"There will be consequences for those who have perpetrated or orchestrated any such actions or do so in the future," Ban said in a statement regarding attacks on troop stationed with the UN mission.
Ban also said he was "deeply concerned" by recent attacks on UN patrols, blaming "security forces apparently loyal to Mr. Gbagbo."
The UN has offered details of two attacks in two days on its troops and military observers, with two employees sustaining injuries in the altercations.
"We're going to continue our patrols but we're not seeking confrontation," UNOCI spokesperson Hamadoun Toure said Sunday. "There are sensitive areas where we don't go, near the presidency. We're increasing our vigilance, and we're ready for anything."
Gbagbo (l.) and Ouattara both claim they won the presidency
Roughly 10,000 UN troops are stationed in the country, along with a further 900 from France. Among other tasks, the troops are protecting the capital Abidjan's Golf Hotel, where opposition presidential candidate Ouattara has assembled his own cabinet and is trying to run an alternative government.
The United Nations, European Union, African Union and the Ivory Coast's election commission all recognize Ouattara as the winner of November's runoff presidential ballot.
Nevertheless, Gbagbo is clinging to his position, supported by a separate national election body, arguing that he won the vote on a technicality. As incumbent, Gbagbo was able to successfully retain the loyalty of the official armed forces and to keep his hold on most government institutions, while Ouattara and his supporters have little more than international support.
"The international community has spoken with one voice regarding Mr. Gbagbo's attempt to hold on to power," Ban said in his statement, indicating a recent pledge of support for Ouattara from the West African economic union, ECOWAS.
The election was supposed to be another step on the road to stability for the poor, war-torn country, which was once the engine room of the West African economy.
Sporadic outbreaks of violence in Abidjan have been met with severe military crackdowns, but the situation is largely calm at present. The UN has said it would try to protect civilians in the capital, as well as Ouattara's makeshift headquarters, should the need arise.
Ban said the UN Security Council planned to meet Monday to discuss the situation in Ivory Coast and review the mandate of the UN mission, which will expire on December 31.
Author: Mark Hallam, Martin Kuebler, Rob Mudge (AFP, dpa)
Editor: Sean Sinico