20.07.2006 Africa

Ivorian president slams UN bias

By bbc
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President Laurent Gbagbo has strongly criticised the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast.

He says it is biased in favour of rebels who have been in control of the north since 2002.

Some 10,000 French and United Nations peacekeepers monitor a buffer zone between the rebels in the north and the government-held south.

Mr Gbagbo said UN troops were "zealous" in denouncing a pro-Gbagbo group, but were silent on disarming the rebels.

A disarmament process and the successful completion of an identity card programme need to take place before elections due in October this year.

"What (the UN) should understand is that they are here because we want them," President Gbagbo told a rally broadcast on national radio at the weekend.

Earlier this month, Mr Gbagbo and rebels agreed a new disarmament deadline aimed at breaking the deadlocked peace process.

Pro-government militias, the Young Patriots, who have recently missed two deadlines, must hand in their arms by the end of July.

A programme to distribute identity cards to some 3.5m people of foreign origin began on Saturday after a two-day delay.

Mr Gbagbo's ruling FPI party had said it would use "any means" to stop the programme.

The rebels say northerners and those with foreign links face discrimination at the hands of the government.

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