Ivory Coast opposition blockade lifted, police desert: UN

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A blockade of a hotel housing rivals of Ivory Coast's Laurent Gbagbo has ended and police have deserted him as rebels advance to drive him from power, the UN envoy in Abidjan said on French radio Thursday.

The UN representative Choi Young-jin said the blockade was no longer in place at the Golf Hotel, where Alassane Ouattara, recognised by much of the international community as the country's rightful leader, has been under siege.

Speaking on France Info radio, Choi added that the police and gendarmes had deserted Gbagbo, leaving him with only the "special forces" charged with guarding the presidential palace and his home.

"At the Golf Hotel, the blockade has disappeared... the people living in the Golf can leave freely," Choi said.

"The 50,000 police and gendarmes have all left Gbagbo. There remain only special forces of the Republican Guard and the CECOS" commando force, he added.

Ouattara has been recognised by much of the international community as the winner of Ivory Coast's November election leader but Gbagbo has refused to quit power, dragging the country into violence that has raised fears of civil war.

Rebel leader Guillaume Soro said earlier that his forces were "encircling" Ivory Coast's main city Abidjan to drive Gbagbo from power and that several military generals had defected to Ouattara's side.

© 2011 AFP

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