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UN calls for Ivory Coast elections on Nov. 29

THE UN Security Council is calling for long-delayed elections in Ivory Coast to take place on Nov. 29 and warned that a postponement would undermine the 2007 peace agreement that ended the country's civil war.

In a resolution extending the UN peacekeeping force in the country for six months, the council made clear yesterday that it wants presidential and legislative elections to take place later this year.

The presidential election is key to restoring Ivory Coast to the ranks of functioning democracies. The country - split in two after an attempted coup sparked civil war in 2002 - signed a peace deal in March 2007 that brought key rebel leaders into the administration and offered the best hope yet of a single government after years of foundering accords and disarmament plans.

Prime Minister Guillaume Soro, who was the top rebel leader before the peace deal, announced the election date in May, saying it was "realistic," unlike the date set last year.

Voting has been repeatedly postponed, most recently in December 2008, after the government said it needed more time to prepare the voter roll. Voter eligibility is a contentious issue in Ivory Coast, where the notion of citizenship has been muddied by waves of immigration from poorer neighbors in West Africa.

In a report earlier this month to the UN Security Council, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that more than 6.4 million Ivorians had registered to vote by the end of June.

He said the Nov. 29 date will "test the credibility of the peace process and the ability of the Ivorian parties to honor their commitments."

"Failure to respect this date may cost the Ivorian parties the goodwill and trust of their international partners, who have invested significant resources to ensure the successful and timely completion of key tasks" in the 2007 peace deal, he warned.

France's UN Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert said after yesterday's vote, without elaborating, that the Security Council will "draw consequences" if there is another postponement.

The French-drafted resolution reiterates that the council "is fully prepared to impose targeted measures " against people threatening the peace and national reconciliation process.

It extends the mandate of the 7,850-strong UN peacekeeping force in Ivory Coast for six months, until Jan. 31 and calls for UN troops to support the organization "of free, open, fair and transparent elections." It also extends the authorization for the separate French force in the country until that date.

The council said it intends to review the mandate for the UN force and authorization for the French forces by Jan. 31 in light of progress in the elections and implementation of key steps in the peace process.


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