Ivory Coast 'on the brink of genocide'
New York - The first recognised ambassador of Ivory Coast's internationally-backed president Alassane Ouattara says the United Nations has to act to prevent "genocide" in his country.
The envoy, Youssoufou Bamba, made the plea after handing over his credentials as envoy to the United Nations to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Ban promised the "full co-operation" of the UN leadership for the government of Ouattara who is in a tense standoff with Laurent Gbagbo, who refuses to recognise the victory of his rival in Ivory Coast's November 28 presidential election.
The ambassador said Ouattara had "real concern" about attacks on his supporters. According to UN rights officials at least 173 people were killed in attacks between December 16 and 21.
'Something should be done'
The victims were only killed "because they wanted to demonstrate, they want to speak out, they want to defend the will of the people," Bamba told reporters. "We are on the brink of genocide, something should be done."
Bamba said people's homes in some areas had been marked according to their tribe. "What will be next? So the situation is very serious and I have put that message across in all the meetings I have had, including with the secretary general."
"The protection of civilians is at the heart of peacekeeping and we expect the United Nations to fulfill its duties," he said.
There is a UN force of more than 9 500 troops in Ivory Coast and 800 are deployed around the Abidjan hotel where Ouattara has his base.
Ban made no comment on the Ivory Coast crisis when he formally accepted Bamba's credentials in front of photographers at the UN headquarters.
But he assured the envoy "of the full co-operation of the secretariat in meeting the challenges ahead."
Ban was briefed again Tuesday by the UN mission in Ivory Coast on efforts to persuade Gbagbo to peacefully stand down, his spokesperson Martin Nesirky said.
The UN chief also held telephone talks with Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan, current chairperson of the West African regional bloc Ecowas, which has threatened to intervene militarily if Gbagbo does not quit.
Bamba, who was previously ambassador for the Gbagbo government at the UN in Vienna, is the first ambassador named by the Ouattara administration to have started work. He hinted that he was not yet being paid, saying that as a career diplomat "I have savings".