UN: Scores of bodies found in Cote d'Ivoire

UN reports that more than 100 bodies, some burned alive, have been found over the past 24 hours across the country.

    The huge human cost is only likely to come to the fore only once the conflict is over  [EPA]

    More than 100 bodies, some burned alive and others thrown down a well, have been found in
    the past 24 hours by United Nations staff in Cote d'Ivoire.

    Rupert Colville, the UN human rights spokesperson, told a news briefing in Geneva on Friday that about 60 bodies were found in Guiglo, 15 bodies in the western town of Duekoue and about 40 in Bloloquin.

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    The announcement comes as Allasane Ouattara, the claimant president, said in a speech late on Thursday that he would seek to restore security and basic public services in the country following fierce fighting between his forces and those of Laurent Gbagbo, the incumbent president.

    "I have asked that European Union sanctions on the ports of Abidjan and San Pedro and certain public entities, be lifted," Ouattara said in the speech broadcast on French television.

    "I have also asked the central bank BCEAO to reopen its branches in Ivory Coast, to ensure a resumption of operations in all banks so as to enable the payment of salaries and arrears in the shortest possible time," he said on television channel LCI.

    In Brussels, the European Commission said it hoped to be able to begin easing sanctions soon.

    Diplomatic and military efforts to oust Gbagbo this week were met with fierce resistance and Ouattara said his rival's residence had been sealed off to protect the area.

    The Reuters news agency reported on Friday that as a direct response to Ouattara's request, the EU planned on lifting the sanctions on all Ivorian port authorities and exports by Tuesday next week.

    A commander for the French military force in Cote d'Ivoire, Licorne (Unicorn), also said on Friday its troops would carry out mixed patrols with police and gendarmes loyal to Ouattara to restore security and rebuild infrastructure.

    Gbagbo blockade continues

    Meanwhile, Ouattara forces continued to blockade Gbagbo in a bunker at the presidential palace in Abidjan - an ironic twist after Ouattara suffered months in a hotel under siege by Gbagbo's troops following last November's disputed presidential election.

    Gbagbo remained defiant on Thursday, even after air strikes hammered his military bases and the palace, where he is holed up with his wife inside a subterranean tunnel.

    The battle for Abidjan

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    Ouattara won the November presidential poll by eight percentage points, according to UN certified results, but Gbagbo rejected the outcome citing fraud, and accused the United Nations of meddling in Ivorian affairs.

    The poll was meant to draw a line under Ivory Coast's 2002-3 civil war, but the dispute over results rekindled it, turning Abidjan into a war zone.

    Via a spokesman in Europe, the ruler continued to insist he'd won last November's election and stressed he would never leave the country he has ruled for the past 10 years.

    "I reached the head of state and his wife less than an hour ago and no - he will not surrender. President Gbagbo will not cede," said his adviser Toussaint Alain by telephone from Paris.

    "It's a question of principle. President Gbagbo is not a monarch. He is not a king. He is not an emperor. He is a president elected by his people."

    Gbagbo has refused to accept defeat even though he was declared the loser of the November election both by his country's electoral body and by international observers including the United Nations.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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