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Chinese peacekeepers in Cote d'Ivoire safe
By Yu Zhong (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-01-21 07:00

Seven Chinese UN peacekeepers in Cote d'Ivoire were all reported safe, as a four-day violent anti-UN demonstration in the country calmed down on Thursday.

Xinhua confirmed that two of them are staying in Abidjan, the country's commercial centre, and the rest are based in different areas.

There are no reported deaths of Chinese people, either.

The Chinese Embassy in Cote d'Ivoire told China Daily that demonstrators had been dispersed on Thursday afternoon and "the tension has already eased."

Xinhua said protesters had left the places they had besieged for several days, including the French military base and the United Nations' headquarters in Abidjan.

The UN reported no deaths of its peacekeepers in the country during the four-day demonstration.

Cote d'Ivoire has been separated between a government-controlled south and a rebel-held north since a failed coup in September 2002. About 6,000 UN peacekeepers and 4,000 French troops were stationed to try to maintain peace in 2004. Chinese observers and strategists began to join the UN peacekeeping force in the same year.

The latest demonstration was ignited last week by a suggestion from the UN to dismiss Cote d'Ivoire's congress, which supports President Laurent Gbagbo.

Gbagbo's supporters, organized by the ruling Ivorian Popular Front (IPF), condemned the UN and France for their interference into Cote d'Ivoire's affairs and started a large anti-UN protest in some parts of the country on Sunday.

On Wednesday, a swarm of protesters attacked the UN peacekeeping camp in Guiglo, a western town.

After an exchange of gunfire, four protestors were shot dead and 12 wounded by the peacekeepers.

Peacekeepers retreated after the attack and about 2,000 demonstrators took up the camp afterwards.

According to the UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo flew late that day to Cote d'Ivoire for talks.

After several hours of discussions, Obasanjo, Gbagbo and new Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny issued a statement saying: "The UN working group does not have the power to dissolve the national assembly The working group has not dissolved the national assembly."

Following the statement, the leader of Cote d'Ivoire's Young Patriot, a youth group in favour of Gbagbo, asked on Thursday for its members who had led the demonstrations to pack up their roadblocks and go home, IRIN reported.

On the same day, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan expressed his "deep concern" at the situation in Cote d'Ivoire, condemning the "orchestrated violence directed against the United Nations, the population, as well as the inactions of some national authorities in responding to the situation," IRIN quoted him as saying.

(China Daily 01/21/2006 page1)

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