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UN mission chief says security deteriorates in Cte d'Ivoire, AU proposes election delay

13 October 2005 With the African Union (AU) asking for this month's elections in Côte d'Ivoire to be delayed for a year, the United Nations peacekeeping mission chief today said the way to sustainable peace and security in the divided country is being impeded by such major challenges as "gruesome" human rights violations, obstruction of the work of the UN force and intimidation of political opponents.

"There is too much anxiety and fear in the air and too many Kalashnikovs in the streets. Rampant insecurity seems to be the order of the day," the head of the UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI), Pierre Schori, told the Security Council at the start of a public meeting followed by a private discussion on the West African country.

"UNOCI's latest human rights report covering the period May-June-July 2005, which was released in Abidjan on 8 October makes gruesome reading," he added. "The report depicts in detail numerous human rights violations committed with increasing frequency by elements of the government-controlled Defence and Security Forces (FDS), military elements of the Forces nouvelles (FN), armed and unarmed militia associated with either side of the Ivorian conflict and criminals. The lack of rule of law has taken root."

Since a failed coup attempt in 2002, the Government has ruled the south of the cocoa-producing country, while the rebel Force nouvelles controls the north.

Explaining the AU's recommendation to postpone the elections for a year, Nigerian Foreign Minister Oluyemi Adeniji, whose country is chairing the AU Executive Council, said it had become clear that the expected completion of the political transition period with the holding of elections on 30 October was not attainable.

He noted that summit meetings of the AU's Peace and Security Council and the Economic Commission of West African States (ECOWAS) had asked the Security Council to consider a substantial expansion of the 7,090-strong UNOCI as it carries out its mandate to disarm and demobilize militias and re-integrate them into society, as well as provide security for the elections in 2006.

Supporting a delay in the polling, the High Representative of the Secretary-General for the elections, Antonio Monteiro, said although his mandate envisioned the holding of free, fair and transparent elections on 30 October, his exploratory mission earlier this month showed no progress in applying signed peace agreements.

The 12-month postponement recommended by the AU's Peace and Security Council was largely sufficient for preparing and holding free, fair and transparent elections, he said.

According to the AU decision, President Laurent Gbagbo would remain in office for the year while South African President Thabo Mbeki was re-affirmed as AU mediator.

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