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Protesters gather outside UN mission in Côte d'Ivoire

16 January 2006 Demonstrators gathered outside the headquarters of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) today to protest a recommendation by a UN-mandated International Working Group monitoring the post-civil war transition that would effectively disband the parliament.

No UN personnel were injured, but four UN vehicles were damaged, according to UNOCI. Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative, Pierre Schori, is headed to New York to discuss the situation with officials at UN Headquarters.

The demonstrations contravened President Laurent Gbagbo’s ban on protests in the West African country’s economic capital, Abidjan. They came in response to the International Working Group’s recommendation that the parliament’s mandate not be renewed.

Two weeks ago, UNOCI expressed concern about violence that erupted on 2 January, just five days after the formation of new Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny’s transitional national-unity government, and urgently appealed for a return to calm.

Côte d’Ivoire was divided into a Government-ruled south and rebel-held north after the failure of an attempted coup in September 2002 triggered a civil war. UNOCI peacekeeping troops and the UN-authorized French Licorne forces have been stationed mainly along the Zone of Confidence between the two areas.

The working group comprises representatives of the African Union (AU), the European Union (EU), the International Organization of the Francophonie (French-speaking countries), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the UN and the World Bank, along with Benin, France, Ghana, Guinea, Niger, Nigeria, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States.

In a report submitted to the Security Council earlier this month, Mr. Annan called on all Ivorian parties to cooperate fully with Mr. Banny and his Government. Mr. Banny, a former international banker, was appointed by the parties in the country after elections scheduled for 30 October 2005 were postponed.

The transitional period should lead to free, open, fair and transparent elections by the end of this October, according to decisions of the African Union (AU), which were endorsed by the Security Council.

In the wake of the elections postponement, the Security Council, acting on AU proposals, extended Mr. Gbagbo's mandate for 12 months. The Parliament's five-year mandate expired on 16 December, but the country's Constitutional Council extended it at Mr. Gbagbo's request.

Under the terms of one of the Security Council resolutions, Mr. Banny has full authority over the 32-member cabinet which he appointed late last month and in which former rebel leader Guillaume Soro has been given the new position of Minister for Reconstruction and Reintegration.

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