UN mission in Ivory Coast to ignore flight ban: UN

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The UN mission in Ivory Coast (ONUCI) said Thursday it would continue its activities despite a ban on overflights and landings by UN and French forces imposed by strongman Laurent Gbagbo's regime.

"We will continue to conduct our activities to help the Ivorian people," the UN mission's spokesman Hamadoun Toure told AFP, noting the goal is to help restore "peace and stability".

"The mandate is still in effect and we are carrying it out with the means provided to us by the (UN Security) Council," Toure said.

France also Thursday dismissed the Gbagbo regime's ban noting that the UN resolution on Ivory Coast guarantees "freedom of movement", a French foreign ministry spokesman said.

Gbagbo has refused to step down from power despite his rival Alassane Ouattara being recognised by the electoral commission and most of the international community as the winner of the November 28 presidential election.

The overflight and landing ban was announced late Wednesday a few hours after Ouattara left for an African Union meeting on the west African nation's political deadlock in Addis Ababa. Gbagbo did not attend the talks.

The ban has left a question mark hanging over Ouattara's ability to return home.

The UN force has generally taken responsibility for transporting members of Ouattara's camp in and out of his headquarters in Abidjan's Golf Hotel by helicopter.

Neither was prepared to reveal by what means Ouattara flew to Ethiopia.

© 2011 AFP

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