UN warns Gbagbo against attack on Ivory Coast peacekeepers

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned UN troops would resist any assault.

Abidjan: The United Nations sternly warned Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo on Thursday not to allow an attack on the hotel where its peacekeepers are defending Alassane Ouattara`s shadow government.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned UN troops would resist any assault, which he said could trigger civil war in the fragile West African state, after Gbagbo`s most notorious lieutenant vowed to storm his rival`s base.

In a statement, a "deeply concerned" Ban said UNOCI force would "use all necessary means to protect its personnel, as well as the government officials and other civilians at these premises of the hotel."

Also in New York, the UN envoy for the prevention of genocide, Francis Deng, said reports that the Abidjan homes of Gbagbo opponents "had been marked to identify their ethnicity were extremely worrying."

Gbagbo`s notorious "Street General", Minister for Youth Charles Ble Goude, on Wednesday urged Ivorian youths to rise up after the New Year to seize control of Ouattara`s headquarters in the waterfront Golf Hotel resort.

"From January 1, I, Charles Ble Goude and the youth of Ivory Coast are going to liberate the Golf Hotel with our bare hands," the political showman turned minister declared on Wednesday, to a cheering crowd of hardline supporters.

The call came as the United Nations` chief peacekeeper accused Gbagbo`s state media of "inciting hatred" against UN troops and as West African leaders promised to try once more to negotiate a peaceful settlement to the crisis.

"This is only the latest provocation from Gbagbo`s camp," Ouattara`s spokeswoman Anne Ouluto said from the hotel, where Ivory Coast`s internationally-recognised leader is effectively cornered.

"It`s a false pretext to attack United Nations forces and create a genuine incident," she said, of Ble Goude`s declaration.

The once-plush resort is protected by a small contingent of lightly-armed former rebel fighters known as the "New Forces" and 800 United Nations troops equipped with armoured vehicles and re-supplied by helicopter.

Ouloto claimed that Ble Goude aimed to "replay the scenario of 2004", when his "Young Patriot" supporters marched on a hotel defended by French troops and provoked clashes in which at least 50 demonstrators were killed.

Bureau Report

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