UN peacekeeping mission in Côte dIvoire deplores efforts to obstruct its work

The spokesman for the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), Hamadoun Touré, told journalists yesterday that on Wednesday a civilian team, comprising human rights experts and civilian police (CIVPOL), went to Agboville, 70 kilometres north of the West African country’s major city, Abidjan, “and was prevented from carrying out its assessment mission on the ground.”Armed and/or hooded elements burst into the conference room to show their hostility to the UN presence at this meeting with the administrative authorities, he said. The same situation occurred in several Government zones where the Defence and Security Forces and the populace displayed hostility to the members of the mission, he said.The situation was brought to the attention of the authorities so that these obstructions and restrictions on movement would not be repeated, Mr. Touré said, noting that ONUCI was present in the country at the request of the Ivorian parties, which undertook to facilitate its work. UNOCI was set up last year to help maintain a ceasefire between Government forces and the rebel Forces nouvelles.This is the second recent report of problems in Agboville. Late last month reports of attacks on the town by unidentified assailants led to the immediate deployment of UNOCI troops to the area, but numerous blockades by the local population prevented the peacekeepers from entering the town for 48 hours. Senior UNOCI officers who entered and interviewed the authorities and youth groups said they found no evidence of an assault.Fighting first erupted in Côte d’Ivoire in 2002 when rebels seeking to oust President Laurent Gbagbo seized the north, splitting the world’s largest cocoa producer in two.Meanwhile, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General Pierre Schori has returned to Côte d’Ivoire from Germany, Norway, Denmark and Sweden, where he successfully raised issues of the country’s post-war reconstruction and development, the spokesman said. UN High Representative for the Elections Antonio Monteiro would arrive this weekend to start his work, Mr. Touré added.

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