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Published:April 3rd, 2011 12:00 EST
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Ban Discusses Civilian Protection With President Ouattara

By SOP newswire3

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has telephoned Alassane Ouattara, the President of Cote d``Ivoire, to discuss the rapidly developing situation there, and to reaffirm the importance of the mandate of the United Nations peacekeeping force in the country to protect civilians.

Mr. Ban expressed particular concern and alarm about reports that pro-Ouattara forces may have killed many civilians in the town of Duékoué in the west of the country.

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The Secretary-General said those responsible should be held accountable, " said a statement issued by his spokesperson following the telephone conversation late on Saturday.

Mr. Ouattara, while denying his forces were involved, said he had launched an investigation and would welcome an international inquiry into the matter.

Forces supporting Mr. Ouattara have reportedly made significant advances as they strive to oust Laurent Gbagbo, Côte d`Ivoire`s former president who refuses to step down despite his defeat by Mr. Ouattara in a runoff presidential election held last November. Mr. Quattara is recognized by the UN and the rest of the international community as the country`s duly elected president.

On Friday, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), urged forces loyal to Mr. Ouattara to show restraint after reports suggested they have been committing serious rights violations during their advance towards Abidjan, Côte d`Ivoire`s commercial capital.

Rupert Colville, the OHCHR spokesperson, said the office had received unconfirmed but worrying " reports of human rights violations committed by the pro-Ouattara group known as Forces Républicaines de Côte d``Ivoire (FRCI).

Reports suggest they have engaged in looting and extortion, as well as serious human rights violations such as abductions, arbitrary arrests and ill-treatment of civilians, " he stated.

The Invisible Commando group, which has been fighting against the forces loyal to Mr. Gbagbo, is also reported to have continued to commit abuses inside Abidjan, he added.

Pro-Gbagbo forces have also continued to commit violations on a daily basis, including the killing of two civilians who were reportedly burnt alive by pro-Gbagbo militiamen in Gagnoa, Mr. Colville noted.

Yesterday, four soldiers serving with the UN Operation in Côte d`Ivoire (UNOCI) were serious wounded when they came under attack by forces loyal to Mr. Gbagbo, a day after the UN troops repulsed another assault by the same armed group.

A UNOCI escort patrol unit came under fire by Mr. Gbagbo`s Special Forces in the Plateau area of Abidjan, the country``s commercial capital, while carrying out a humanitarian mission.

On Friday, UNOCI soldiers on patrol were attacked by Mr. Gbagbo``s troops in a suburb of Abidjan, sparking an exchange of gunfire during which five members of the former president`s forces were hit.

www.un.org