UN in 'urgent' request for French aid in I. Coast: officials

4th April 2011, Comments 0 comments

France and the United Nations started military action in Ivory Coast on Monday following an "urgent" request for help by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to the French president, officials said.

Ban wrote to French leader Nicolas Sarkozy on Sunday saying: "It is urgent to launch necessary military operations to put out of action the heavy arms which have been used against the civilian population and the peacekeepers."

The UN chief said Gbagbo's forces had "intensified the use of heavy weapons against the civilian population. These elements have also targeted the UNOCI headquarters at the Hotel Sebroko, including with mortar and rocket fire."

He said patrols from the UN peacekeeping mission, UNOCI, had faced similar attacks when protecting civilians and convoys carrying the wounded, according to the letter, a copy of which was obtained by AFP.

Ban asked Sarkozy to give "urgent" approval for joint military operations between the French troops in Ivory Coast and the UN force.

Sarkozy replied that he had authorized military involvement under the mandate given by UN Security Council resolution 1975 which allows the French force to help UNOCI to protect civilians.

"I consider, like you, that the protection of civilians threatened in Ivory Coast is an urgent necessity, parallel to political efforts by the whole of the international community aiming to resolve the current crisis," Sarkozy's letter said.

© 2011 AFP

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