Russia maintains block on UN action Ivory Coast

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Russia on Wednesday kept up its opposition to a UN Security Council statement on the Ivory Coast political crisis despite growing African demands for action, diplomats said.

Russia's counterparts on the 15-nation Security Council were at a loss to explain Moscow's blocking action. "We are bewildered," said a Western diplomat. The United States has accused Russia of "quibbling".

The Security Council has been trying since Friday to agree a statement on the Ivory Coast presidential election with most nations wanting to reaffirm the widespread support shown for opposition leader Alassane Ouattara against incumbent Laurent Gbagbo.

Russia sent only a lower level diplomat to the latest council consultations on Wednesday and requested even more time to get instructions from Moscow, a diplomat told AFP.

"Everyone on the council told the diplomat that we have to do something. The African nations said that if Gbagbo stays there could be violence," the diplomat added.

A second diplomat said "everyone is tired" of reiterating their positions to Russia and that no new meeting would be held until Moscow sends its final instructions.

The African Union and the West African regional group, ECOWAS, have backed Ouattara as winner of the first election since a civil war in 2002. Gbagbo has refused to accept the UN-certified results of the November 28 runoff which named Ouattara as winner.

The United States, president of the Security Council for December, has expressed frustration at Russia's resistance to a statement.

"We are worried about any development that could undermine peace and democracy," US ambassador Susan Rice said after Tuesday's talks. She said Russia was "quibbling" over past resolutions.

Russia at first blocked a proposed statement saying the international community should wait for Africa's opinion. After the AU and ECOWAS released their statements, Russia said the United Nations had exceeded its mandate by calling Ouattara the winner, diplomats said.

© 2010 AFP

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