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Militia members handed over to Côte d'Ivoire authorities by UN mission

3 March 2005 The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Côte d'Ivoire today handed over to local authorities the nearly 90 militia members it detained after a clash between the militia and rebel forces in the west of the country.

The authorities in Guiglo would take the appropriate judicial measures, Gen. Abdoulaye Fall, Force Commander of the UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) told a news conference in the largest city of the West African country, Abidjan, on his return from an assessment trip to the area where the clashes took place, Logouale.

UNOCI arrested 87 assailants, of whom two were minors and were turned over to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) at the UN camp at Man.

With tensions in the west remaining high, the UN refugee agency limited staff movements in northern and western Côte d'Ivoire and suspended the registration of Liberian refugees in four border districts where 10,000 refugees are living.

Census-taking was continuing at Nicla refugee camp in the west, but would be delayed in Ben-Houyen, Zouan-Hounien, Blolequin and Toulepleu districts, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in Abidjan.

The census registration started last month and aims to update refugee information and give the refugees identification documents which could prevent them from being mistaken for parties to the conflict, the agency said.

If the situation in the west deteriorated, 17,000 Liberian refugees would be at risk, UNHCR said, harking back to 2003 when the Liberians had to be evacuated to Abidjan to escape fierce fighting in the west.

The Liberian refugees in Côte d'Ivoire currently number 70,000.

Meanwhile, in an exchange of letters the Security Council agreed with Secretary-General Kofi Annan's appointment of Swedish diplomat Pierre Schori as his new Special Representative (SRSG) for the country. He replaces Albert Tévoédjrè, who stepped down at the end of January.

In other news, Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette was expected to arrive in Abidjan tomorrow for a four-day visit during which she would stress to the civilian and military leadership of UNOCI the world body's zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers.

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