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Agence France-Presse

Ivory Coast's Ouattara Urges Civil Revolt

Dave Clark

Beleaguered would-be Ivory Coast president Alassane Ouattara, pictured, on Tuesday urged the Ivorian people to rise up in a campaign of civil disobedience against defiant strongman Laurent Gbagbo. (AFP)

ABIDJAN - Beleaguered would-be Ivory Coast president Alassane Ouattara on Tuesday urged the Ivorian people to rise up in a campaign of civil disobedience against defiant strongman Laurent Gbagbo.

In a statement issued from the hotel where it survives behind a wall of UN peacekeepers, Ouattara's camp accused Gbagbo's loyalist security forces of murdering scores of civilians in overnight death squad raids.

Gbagbo, meanwhile, appeared determined to resist a barrage of international criticism, as the United Nations defended its hard-pressed peacekeepers and threatened to impose new sanctions on the 65-year-old's regime.

Gbagbo and Ouattara both claim to have won last month's Ivorian presidential election, but UN poll monitors and most world powers have now recognised the challenger as president and have demanded the incumbent step down.

On Saturday a furious Gbagbo ordered the United Nations' 10,000-strong UNOCI peacekeeping force out of the country, accusing it of arming former rebel fighters now loyal to Ouattara and of rigging the election.

But the United Nations was unimpressed, and the Security Council voted on Monday to renew the force's mandate, after hearing reports that Gbagbo's forces have been involved in "massive" human rights abuses.

At the same time, the European Union slapped visa bans on Gbagbo, both of his wives and 16 senior presidential advisers and military officers, while the White House said it was preparing new action against him.

And on Tuesday, Washington banned dozens of Gbagbo associats from travelling to the United States, reinforcing its demand that he step down.

Gbagbo's interior minister, Emile Guirieoulou, dismissed charges of rights abuses Monday, telling reporters: "We demand UNOCI leaves. The rest is just a diversion. It shouldn't act against our will on our territory.

"If it chooses to talk to people other than the authorities, it puts itself in a position of revolt, and will be dealt with accordingly," he warned.

Ouattara's choice for prime minister, the leader of the "New Forces" rebel movement Guillaume Soro, accused Gbagbo's security forces -- which he said are backed by Liberian mercenaries -- of deploying death squads.

"To date, we've counted almost 200 dead and 1,000 wounded by gunfire, 40 disappearances and 732 arrests. Worse, women have been beaten, stripped, assaulted and raped," he alleged.

It was impossible to independently confirm Soro's figures, but the United Nations top human rights official spoke at the weekend of at least 50 killings and said pro-Gbagbo forces had been involved.

"When will the international community realise that a murderous insanity has begun in Ivory Coast?" Soro demanded, announcing a campaign of disobedience.

"We ask the brave and proud Ivorian people, in campgrounds, villages and cities to organise, mobilise and protest by all means possible until Mr Laurent Gbagbo's departure from power," he said.

In New York, the head of the United Nations peacekeeping department told AFP his force was facing a "dangerous" challenge in Ivory Coast.

"It is clear that President Gbagbo's camp is doing everything to make life difficult for us, including by blocking our supplies and by harassing our personnel, and carrying out provocations, some armed," Alain Le Roy said.

Le Roy said peacekeepers are probing reports Gbagbo's forces were working alongside Liberian and perhaps Angolan mercenaries, a charge long made by the Ouattara camp, but which Gbagbo's ministers have denied.

In a resolution, the Security Council warned it might send more troops "as may be needed" from other UN peacekeeping missions and called on countries to be ready to meet any new appeal for new forces.

The UN refugee agency has beefed up relief supplies in neighbouring Guinea and Liberia, as is ready to deal with up to 30,000 Ivorians if they are forced to flee. Some 6,200 -- mostly women and children -- have already left.

UN peacekeepers and France's 900-strong Licorne force patrol the streets of Abidjan and protect the Golf Hotel, where Ouattara has set up his base.

UNOCI chief Choi Young-jin has accused Gbagbo's troops of blockading the Golf and sending gunmen to intimidate UN staff in their homes at night.

The West African bloc ECOWAS on Tuesday announced an emergency summit on the crisis for Friday after suspending Ivory Coast and urging Laurent Gbagbo to yield power.

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