US eyes bigger UN force in Ivory Coast

2010-12-23 07:30

Washington - The United States said on Wednesday it is discussing with France and other countries about expanding the UN peacekeeping force in Ivory Coast to quell postelection violence and convince the West African nation's leader to step down.

The State Department said that buttressing the existing 8 650-strong United Nations force could be a way for the international community to show Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo that it is serious about demands for him to accept the results of elections that he lost last month to opposition leader Alassane Ouattara. Gbagbo has refused to concede and has ordered the UN forces to leave.

"We are in discussions with other regional countries to see if there are ways in which we can reinforce the UN peacekeeping force," spokesperson PJ Crowley told reporters. "It could be that that kind of reinforcement could be another way to send a clear message to President Gbagbo."

Crowley said the US was looking to "make sure that the forces on the ground are adequate and, to the extent they could be augmented, what countries might be in a position to assist".

He declined to name the countries that have been contacted but noted that Nigeria is a major troop contributor to West African peacekeeping forces and that France has interests in Ivory Coast, a former French colonial possession.

Crowley said no decision on expanding the force has yet been made. But earlier this week, the UN Security Council extended the mandate of the mission until June 30 2011. It also extended the temporary deployment of up to 500 additional personnel until the end of March, and added four weeks to the temporary redeployment of three infantry companies and an aviation unit from Liberia to Ivory Coast.

Earlier on Wednesday, the World Bank said it had halted loans to Ivory Coast. The US and the EU have already imposed travel bans on Gbagbo, his wife and political allies. The pressure to force Gbagbo out comes amid rising concerns about violence. The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday the country faces "a real risk" of return to civil war.

  • Paul - 2010-12-23 08:06

    What a joke this is Africa, the US got their rear ends handed to them the last time they got involved here (Somalia, black Hawk down ring any bells). As for the toothless puppy of the UN well their record speaks for itself and the the African Union wont do anything simply because its their struggle buddies.

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