CIV:UN to use deadly force to protect Alassane Ouattara if attacked

Ivory Coast protestorsBy Nangayi Guyson – Abidjan – United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has warned supporters of Ivory Coast’s defeated President Laurent Gbagbo that peacekeepers will use deadly force if attacked by supporters who have threatened to seize a UN-protected hotel occupied by Alassane Ouattara, the winner of last month’s presidential vote.

On Wednesday Mr Gbagbo’s Minister for Youth, Charles Ble Goude, urged followers to storm the Golf Hotel on Saturday “with our bare hands”.

A statement from Mr Ban’s office said he was “deeply alarmed” by Mr Ble Goude’s call, adding that the UN mission would use all necessary means to protect Mr Ouattara.

“Any attack on the Golf Hotel could provoke widespread violence that could reignite civil war,” the statement said.

“The secretary-general calls on all those who may be contemplating participation in the attack to refrain from such dangerous irresponsible action.

Nearly 10,000 UN troops from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Jordan and a number of West African countries have standing orders to defend themselves and protect the country’s elected political leaders, using force if necessary, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon said in a statement issued yesterday.

“UNOCI is authorized to use all necessary means to protect its personnel, as well as the government officials and other civilians at these premises of the hotel,” according to the statement, issued by Ban’s spokesman. UNOCI is the acronym for the UN mission in Ivory Coast.

Ouattara has been holed up with members of his parallel government at the Golf Hotel in Abidjan, the country’s commercial capital, since the start of a dispute over the results of the Nov. 28 election. The 68-year-old opposition leader, who is being protected by UN peacekeepers, is regarded by the UN, the African Union and the U.S. as the winner of the vote. Gbagbo, the incumbent, has refused to step down.

Gbagbo warned yesterday that he would not leave voluntarily and said that the international pressure for him to quit threatened to push the country to civil war.

“I do not believe at all in a civil war. But obviously, if the pressures continue as they have, they will push towards war, confrontation,” he said in an interview with Euronews, a European television channel.

West African leaders met with Gbagbo on Dec. 28 to press him to give up the leadership. They plan a second round of talks next month