Security Council OKs peacekeeping mission

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

UNITED NATIONS -- The Security Council unanimously approved a scaled-down U.N. mission in Ivory Coast with up to 76 unarmed military officers to help implement a peace agreement aimed at ending nine months of civil war.

Determining that "the situation in Ivory Coast constitutes a threat to international peace and security in the region," the council authorized the mission for six months and appealed to all states in the region to support the peace process.

Despite the January peace agreement and a more extensive cease-fire reached earlier this month, the Ivory Coast remains divided and rebels continue to hold the northern half of the country and much of the west.

The war began with a failed attempt to overthrow President Laurent Gbagbo in September.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan initially requested a 255-strong mission, but the United States demanded that the number be cut, and U.S. officials said it was reduced by about 30 percent. The resolution does not specify the overall size for the U.N. mission.

The 76 peacekeepers would work with a West African force and French troops who are trying to enforce a cease-fire that has been repeatedly violated, according to a draft resolution agreed on Monday by the council.

The resolution calls for an initial deployment of 26 military liaison officers to monitory the military situation and establish contact with a West African peacekeeping force and French forces who are enforcing the cease-fire line that has been repeatedly violated.

The council resolution gives Annan authority to progressively add up to 50 officers. It also approved the establishment of "a small staff" to support Annan's special representative, Albert Tevoedjre.

"I think it's an important signal to all the parties in the region to abide by the agreements that have been reached," said Pakistan's U.N. Ambassador Munir Akram, the current council president.

Separately, the Security Council postponed a U.N. mission to West Africa, including stops in Ivory Coast and Liberia, that was to have started Thursday because some governments wanted their ambassadors in New York for negotiations on a resolution dealing with postwar Iraq issues.

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