UN chief warns of 'real risk' of Ivory Coast civil war

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LONDON. December 22. KAZINFORM The UN's secretary-general has warned there is a "real risk" of a return to civil war in Ivory Coast after the disputed presidential election; Kazinform refers to BBC News.

Ban Ki-moon said the incumbent, Laurent Gbagbo, was illegally trying to expel the UN's peacekeeping force after it recognised Alassane Ouattara as victor.

Earlier, an ally of Mr Gbagbo warned the peacekeepers that they could be treated as rebels if they did not go.

And in his first TV address since the poll Mr Gbagbo stressed his legitimacy.

He also offered to let a panel representing international powers examine the results of the election.

Mr Gbagbo said Mr Ouattara could leave the Golf Hotel in Abidjan, where he has set up his headquarters, protected by the UN.

The army meanwhile announced the lifting of a nightly curfew, so families could "enjoy the end of year holidays and the New Year".

'Mercenaries'

In a speech to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Mr Ban said he was worried about the 10,000-strong mission in Ivory Coast (Unoci).

Forces loyal to Mr Gbagbo were obstructing Unoci operations, and had blockaded the 800 peacekeepers protecting Mr Ouattara, he warned.

"I am concerned that this disruption of life-support supplies for the mission and the Golf Hotel will put our peacekeepers in a critical situation in the coming days," he said.

"I therefore strongly appeal to member states who are in a position to do so to prepare to support the mission.

"Facing this direct and unacceptable challenge to the legitimacy of the United Nations, the world community cannot stand by," he added.

The BBC's John James in Abidjan says roads leading to the lagoon-side hotel have been blocked and no supplies have been received for days; Kazinform cites BBC News.

See www.bbc.co.uk for full version

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