Russia 'quibbling' over UN I.Coast statement: US

8th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

Russia on Tuesday blocked a UN Security Council statement backing Ivory Coast opposition leader Alassane Ouattara as the country's new leader, diplomats said.

The United States accused Russia of "quibbling" over moves to support Ouattara in his battle of nerves with Ivory Coast's incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo.

The African Union and the West African regional group ECOWAS have supported Ouattara as winner of Ivory Coast's first national election since its 2002 civil war. And US ambassador Susan Rice expressed concern at the Security Council's failure to come up with a unified statement.

"We are worried about any development that could undermine peace and democracy," she told reporters at the end of another five-and-half hours of talks on the statement.

"We think that it is important that there be clear and unified statements and actions by the international community that reinforce respect for the results of the election."

The United States wanted the council to "speak and speak plainly as part of a unified international effort to support" Ivory Coast, she added.

Russia blocked a proposed statement saying the United Nations had exceeded its mandate by calling Ouattara the winner of the November 28 runoff vote against Gbagbo, who has been president for nearly a decade, diplomats said.

Rice insisted the United Nations had acted entirely within its Security Council mandate. "I don't know why Russia is quibbling with resolutions that it, itself, voted for," she said during a break in the tense negotiations.

Russia also objected to a statement made by Rice during the latest Security Council meeting, that the presence of the Ivory Coast ambassador named by Gbagbo did not imply recognition of his government, diplomats said.

The United States is the Security Council president for December and Rice chaired the meeting. She said she acted to "preserve the neutrality of the council."

UN special envoy to Ivory Coast, Choi Young-jin, reaffirmed to the Security Council on Tuesday that he considered Ouattara to be the winner of the landmark election by "a clear margin."

The United States, European Union, African Union and most neighboring states have all called for Gbagbo to stand down.

Gbagbo has refused to accept the results though. The Constitutional Court, which he controls, declared the official results void and Gbagbo was sworn in as president at the weekend.

Rice said the United States highlighted in the discussions "the crucial importance of the will of the people of (Ivory Coast) being respected, the reality of the fact that Ouattara has been elected needs to be respected."

Rice called Ivory Coast a "unique situation" for the United Nations.

Under a 2005 accord made between the two sides in Ivory Coast's 2002 civil war, the United Nations was to play a central role in the electoral process. The Security Council passed two resolutions setting out the role, including certifying the electoral process and results.

Rice said the UN envoy "is not picking the winner. He is simply certifying the results of the Independent Electoral Commission."

© 2010 AFP

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