UNHCR sees ICoast refugees reaching 5,000 next week

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The UN refugees agency said Friday it expected refugees fleeing Ivory Coast's post-election crisis to reach 5,000 by next week, with over 4,200 Ivorians having already fleed to Liberia recently.

We are expecting "5,000 early next week or before given the pace," said Melissa Fleming, spokeswoman of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

The UNHCR has already registered 4,241 Ivorian refugees in Liberia, up from 3,500 on Tuesday, and 200 in Guinea.

Deadly clashes erupted in Abidjan and central Ivory Coast on Thursday, with a dozen killed and many more injured, as the stand-off between the two self-declared presidents turned bloody.

Opposition leader Alassane Ouattara has been recognized by the United Nations and international community as winner of a November 28 runoff presidential vote, however, the incumbent Laurent Gbagbo has refused to give up power.

Fleming said it was difficult to predict what could happen in coming days, but added: "it could result in fighting that could push people to flee."

She added that the UNHCR has readied reserves in neighbouring countries to cope with an exodus from Ivory Coast.

© 2010 AFP

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