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Ivory Coast on the 'Brink of Genocide'
UN ambassador says election crisis has led to a 'massive violation of human rights' and calls for international intervention
Ivory Coast is on the "brink of genocide" and the world must take urgent action, the country's new ambassador to the UN has warned.
Youssoufou Bamba expressed alarm that houses in certain areas were being marked according to the tribe of the person who lives there.
World leaders have stepped up pressure on President Laurent Gbagbo to quit in favour of Alassane Ouattara, widely recognised as having won last month's elections.
Speaking in New York, Bamba, appointed as ambassador to the UN by Ouattara, described him as the rightful ruler of Ivory Coast. "He has been elected in a free, fair, transparent, democratic election," he said. "The result has been proclaimed by the independent electoral commission, certified by the UN. To me the debate is over, now you are talking about how and when Mr Gbagbo will leave office."
Bamba alleged there had been a "massive violation of human rights", with more than 170 people killed during street demonstrations in Ivory Coast. "Thus, one of the messages I try to get across during the conversations I have conducted so far, is to tell we are on the brink of genocide. Something should be done."
He implied that Ouattara supporters, whose strongholds are largely in the north, could be targeted by Gbagbo backers, saying: "If houses are being marked according to your tribe, what is going to be next?"
Bamba said he planned to meet every member of the UN security council. "I intend to meet all the 15 members to explain to them the gravity of the situation ... We expect the United Nations to be credible and the United Nations to prevent violation and to prevent the election to be stolen from the people."
The 28 November election was meant to reunite Ivory Coast, the world's top cocoa producer, after a 2002-03 civil war. But a dispute over the results has provoked lethal street clashes and threatens to restart open conflict.
The UN general assembly last week recognised Ouattara as Ivory Coast's legitimate president by unanimously deciding that the list of diplomats he submitted be recognised as the sole official representatives of Ivory Coast at the UN.
The UN's peacekeeping chief, Alain Le Roy, said his troops had become a target of violence in Ivory Coast after a campaign of "disturbing lies" on state television suggested the UN was arming and transporting anti-Gbagbo rebels.
The US state department spokesman, Mark Toner, said America was planning for the possible evacuation of its embassy in Ivory Coast amid concerns of a full-blown conflict.
Ouattara and his prime minister, Guillaume Soro, remain holed up in a hotel in the commercial capital, Abidjan, protected by UN forces. Supporters of Gbagbo, the Young Patriots, have threatened to storm the hotel.
The group's leader, Charles Blé Goudé, who is also Gbagbo's youth minister, warned the west African regional bloc, Ecowas, not to send troops. "They should prepare themselves very well because we are thinking about totally liberating our country, and soon I will launch the final assault," he said.
West African leaders have backed off their threat of military action for now. On Tuesday the presidents of Sierra Leone, Benin and Cape Verde delivered an ultimatum on behalf of Ecowas, hoping to escort Gbagbo into exile. He refused to budge.
An Ouattara adviser, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Gbagbo demanded a vote recount during the negotiations with the visiting delegation and wants amnesty if he leaves office.
The Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan, said the leaders would return to Ivory Coast on Monday. "Whenever there is a dispute, whenever there is disagreement, it is dialogue that will solve issues," Jonathan said in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, where Ecowas is based. "The dialogue is on. They are encouraging us to go back."