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Political tensions in Côte d'Ivoire easing, UN envoy reports

25 February 2010 – The political tension in Côte d’Ivoire that followed the dissolution of the Government and the independent electoral authority is gradually decreasing, the top United Nations official in the divided West African country said today.

Speaking at a news conference in Dakar, Senegal, at the end of a meeting of heads of UN missions in West Africa, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative Y. J. Choi noted that a new government had been announced and agreement reached on forming a new electoral commission, crucial steps for holding much-delayed polls to reunite a country that was split by civil war in 2002 into a rebel-held north and Government-controlled south.

As soon as the latest crisis erupted two weeks ago UN officials, including Mr. Ban, have been working to ensure that the elections, originally scheduled as far back as 2005 but repeatedly delayed, most recently from last November to next month, take place.

As they have several times already, Mr. Choi highlighted the need to preserve the achievements already made, especially the provisional electoral list, and to produce a definitive electoral list as soon as possible.

In a communiqué released at the end of the one-day meeting of the heads of the UN missions in West Africa, the participants noted that a crisis in one country could destabilize the sub-region, and they stressed the importance of organizing peaceful and fair elections.

Mr. Choi heads the UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI), which was set up in 2004 to help ensure a ceasefire and pave the way for permanent peace and democratic elections. Reauthorized repeatedly since then, most recently until 31 May, it currently comprises over 8,500 uniformed personnel, as well as 400 international civilian staff.

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