UN to keep up pressure on Ivory Coast
New York - The UN Security Council will this week renew an arms and diamond embargo on Ivory Coast for a year to keep up pressure on the new government as disturbances keep the country on edge, diplomats said.
The council will meet on Tuesday to discuss sanctions against the west African nation where President Alassane Ouattara is cementing his authority after strongman Laurent Gbagbo's capture two weeks ago.
The European Union has lifted some of its sanctions and the African Union has ended its suspension of Ivory Coast's membership.
But lingering troubles in the main city of Abidjan, uncertainty about Gbagbo's future and the need to organise legislative elections has made the UN powers more cautious.
Diplomats said an arms embargo first imposed in 2004, as well as a ban on trading in its diamonds added the following year, will probably be extended for another year.
The council agreed to a six-month extension when the sanctions were last discussed in October. But that was just a few weeks before the election in which Gbagbo refused to acknowledge his defeat by Ouattara.
The ensuing strife claimed hundreds of lives.
Individual sanctions against Gbagbo and his entourage, including a travel ban and assets freeze, are also likely to be kept.
"The recommendation is that the sanctions regime be renewed for 12 months rather than six. Obviously we can review it as things improve," a Western diplomat said.
"We don't know exactly what will happen in the coming weeks, so we think this should be kept in place for the time being."
Government security forces have been seeking to quell pockets of resistance from Gbagbo followers in Abidjan, and aid groups say the humanitarian situation remains urgent throughout much of the world's top cocoa producer.
"The signs are good in Cote d'Ivoire so far, but safeguard pressure must be kept up," a senior UN source said.
Security Council diplomats said Ouattara's main tests would be forming a government that includes Gbagbo supporters and running the next elections.
Ivory Coast's ambassador to the United Nations, Youssoufou Bamba, said there would be national elections before the end of the year.
"The aim is to allow Ivory Coast to continue its democratic process in stability, giving a strong signal to those who in recent months showed themselves with their calls for violence and hate," Bamba told AFP.
The government understood that the UN sanctions would have to be extended, the ambassador added.
"The crisis has to be definitively resolved before the sanctions can be lifted," Bamba said.
"The country has to treat its wounds, its democratic life, rediscover a calm dialogue," said another UN Security Council diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.