UN Welcomes Election Date in Cote d’Ivoire

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RAPAPORT…  The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) welcomed a date for the war-torn country’s much delayed presidential elections.

Cote d’Ivoire plans to hold elections November 30, 2008.

The poll date “is one of the greatest achievements in the Ivorian peace process since the outbreak of the crisis more than four years ago,” UNOCI remarked in statement.

Côte d’Ivoire became divided in 2002 between the government-controlled south and the rebel Forces Nouvelles-held north, but a peace agreement in 2007 paved the way for an end to the conflict and included a provision calling for free and fair elections to be held.

The country is rich in diamonds, but experts claim the precious stones continue to make their way into markets illegally.

In a mid-term report to the Security Council that was released today, the Côte d’Ivoire Group of Experts said it had gathered credible information that members of the defence and security forces of both the government and the Forces Nouvelles are being trained in the territories of other UN Member States, a breach of a 2004 Council resolution.

The Group also voiced deep concern that UNOCI has been unable to inspect sites held by the Garde Républicaine to monitor the arms embargo established by the Council, and that Ivorian authorities routinely deny access to such sites, claiming that inspections are outside UNOCI’s mandate.

The Group found major weakness of the embargo stemmed from the failure of Ivorian authorities to sensitize customs staff to be vigilant and not allow the export or imports of prohibited goods including diamonds.

During the reporting period the experts were also informed by Mali that an attempt was made last December to export 31 rough diamonds, purportedly of Malian origin, through Bamako airport.

Exporting rough diamonds from Mali is illegal as the West African country is not a member of the Kimberley Process, the system set up in 2003 to prevent rebel groups and others from profiting from diamond sales.

The Group said the diamonds may be of Ivorian origin, it recommends that the Kimberley Process send a technical working group to Bamako to examine the seized diamonds.


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