/ 30 October 2007

UN extends sanctions on Côte d’Ivoire

The United Nations Security Council renewed arms and diamond sanctions against Côte d’Ivoire on Monday in a bid to make the West African country stick to the terms of a peace process following a civil war.

A resolution passed unanimously by the 15-member council extended the sanctions for a further year but promised to review them during that period, in which general elections are supposed to be held in the world’s biggest cocoa exporter.

Côte d’Ivoire has made stuttering progress towards reunification since a March peace deal signed in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou by President Laurent Gbagbo and rebel leader Guillaume Soro, now his Prime Minister.

The Security Council slapped an arms embargo on Côte d’Ivoire in 2004 over the violation of a 2003 ceasefire between the government and the New Forces rebels who control the country’s north. An embargo on buying rough diamonds mined in Côte d’Ivoire followed in 2005.

Monday’s resolution renewed the sanctions until October 31 2008.

But the council promised to review them after the peace deal is fully implemented and after free presidential and legislative elections, or in any case by April 30.

During a speech to the UN General Assembly last month, Gbagbo asked the council to ease the sanctions.

”We think that all the aspects of the Ouagadougou agreement have not yet been put into effect, notably on disarmament problems. So we think it’s necessary to keep the pressure up,” French Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert told reporters.

”We think it’s necessary to keep the pressure up so that the electoral calendar is respected.”

In a report to the Security Council last week, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Côte d’Ivoire’s peace process would remain liable to reversals unless it was underpinned by concrete progress, especially on disarmament and elections.

”I am deeply concerned that that the failure to adhere to the timelines set out in the agreement has led to a slackening of momentum which, if it continues, would undermine successful implementation,” Ban said. – Reuters