6 Jan 2011

UN peacekeepers seek more troops in Ivory Coast

9:27 pm on 6 January 2011

UN peacekeepers in Ivory Coast are sending a request to the Security Council for 1000 to 2000 more troops amid a continuing political crisis.

UN peacekeeping chief in Ivory Coast Alain Le Roy said he hoped the troops would be available in a few weeks.

Incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo has refused to cede power since losing an election on 28 November.

Opposition candidate Alassane Ouattara is recognised internationally as the new president. Both men have been sworn in as president.

Mr Le Roy said the request for more troops would be made in the next few days.

He said they were needed because of the current force's additional duty of protecting a hotel where Mr Ouattara is based.

A blockade remains around the hotel despite African mediators reporting on Tuesday that Mr Gbagbo had agreed to lift it.

Mr Le Roy also said the UN was facing more hostility because of what he called false reports in the media controlled by Mr Gbagbo.

The BBC reports an estimated 10,000 UN troops are already in the country.

Mediation attempts

The ECOWAS regional body has threatened to force Mr Gbagbo out, but is trying mediation efforts first.

On Monday, ECOWAS sent the presidents of Benin, Cape Verde and Sierra Leone to negotiate Mr Gbagbo's departure - their second attempt to do so in a week.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga of Kenya, representing the African Union, also attended.

The leaders told Mr Gbagbo to recognise Mr Ouattara as the elected leader.

But the BBC reports Mr Gbagbo has given no indication he is willing to step down.

Refugees already

United Nations Radio reports that more than 22,000 people from Ivory Coast have fled into Liberia.

The UN Refugee agency says the refugees, mostly women and children, are in urgent need of food, shelter and clean water.

UNHCR says all these resources are in short supply in the 23 villages hosting them in Nimba County in Liberia.