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UN seeks troops for Cote d'Ivoire
Peacekeeping chief to request up to 2,000 more forces as world body presses disputed leader Laurent Gbagbo to step down.
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2011 01:47 GMT
Gbagbo has refused for more than a month to step down after a decade in power [AFP]

The UN is calling for up to 2,000 peacekeepers to bolster existing forces in Cote d'Ivoire, as the world body continues to press disputed leader Laurent Gbagbo to step down.

The additional troops would reinforce the 9,800-strong UN force currently in the West African country, Alain Le Roy, the UN peacekeeping undersecretary-general, said on Wednesday.

He said the UN would make a formal request for the troops from the 15-nation Security Council next week, for deployment within weeks.

"In light of the current crisis in [Cote d'Ivoire], beefing up the UN peacekeeping operation would make a lot of sense," Nicholas Birnback, a spokesman for the UN peacekeeping mission, said.

Some 800 peacekeepers are stationed in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire's largest city, outside of the Golf Hotel, where the government of opposition leader Alassane Ouattara has been holed up since the country's disputed presidential runoff on November 28.

The UN, the African Union, the 15-nation West African regional group ECOWAS and other world powers have recognised Ouattara as the winner of the November vote.

But Gbagbo has refused for more than a month to step down after a decade in power, sparking a political crisis that has left more than 170 people dead.

'Tantamount to heist'

The US state department told Al Jazeera that Gbagbo's refusal to concede defeat in the election is "tantamount to a heist".

"The issue is that former president Gbagbo needs to do the right thing [and] recognise the results of the election that were well-certified by international means that had been put in place," Mary Beth Leonard, the director of West African affairs at the state department, said.

"The essential and key element is for him to recognise the results of the election. His continued refusal to acknowledge those results is tantamount to a heist of the democratic process."

ECOWAS has threatened to use military force to oust Gbagbo, but it has said doing so would be a last resort and it opened the door to negotiations. However, Ouattara has said he is not willing to meet Gbagbo until he cedes power.

Speaking on Wednesday, Ouattara said removing Gbagbo from power would not lead to civil war.

"All that needs to be done, as has been done in other African countries, is to come and get Gbagbo and remove him from the presidential palace," he said from the Golf Hotel.

His comments came a day after ECOWAS announced that Gbagbo had agreed to further talks and promised  to lift a blockade around Ouattara's temporary headquarters.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union said that that Gbagbo had "agreed to negotiate a peaceful end to the crisis without any preconditions".

But it did not elaborate on what actions that would entail other than lifting a blockade around the hotel where his rival is based.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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