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UN Security Council promotes reconciliation, presidential election in Ivory Coast

UN Security Council promotes reconciliation, presidential election in Ivory Coast

The head of Ivory Coast's independent electoral commission expressed confidence Monday that a long-delayed presidential vote will take place Nov. 30 and he urged observers to come here now to monitor the process.
Beugre Mambe told reporters after meeting the U.N. Security Council that the commission has been meeting almost every day with key partners to finalize the system of voter registration. He assured Ivorians that the national census and registration would be transparent.
"I want the observers to come now to observe the system of electoral registration," Mambe said. "Now it is the time to observe _ now. Don't wait two or three days before the election to observe."
Asked if was sure the vote would occur as scheduled, Mambe said "we are doing our best to respect the timetable for the election." He added that Ivory Coast had asked the Security Council for help in certain areas _ namely security and financing.
Opposition leader Alassane Ouattara _ a former prime minister who has said he will run for president _ also expressed confidence that Ivory Coast's repeatedly rescheduled election is finally coming to pass.
"We think it's possible to have elections _ democratic elections _ at the end of November," Ouattara said after meeting with the council. He urged U.N. peacekeepers to maintain security throughout the vote, noting that militias still control large parts of Ivory Coast even after the country reunified its rebel-run north and government-controlled south.
The election is key to restoring Ivory Coast to the ranks of functioning democracies. The country _ split in two after an attempted coup sparked civil war in 2002 _ signed a peace deal in March 2007 that brought key rebel leaders into the government and suggested the best hope yet of a single government after years of foundering accords and disarmament plans.
Gen. Soumaila Bakayoko _ a former rebel commander now in the government army _ said disarmament is occurring, but "little by little." He said that the militia fighters need to be retrained so they can enter society as civilians.
The U.N. Security Council was in Ivory Coast for a one-day visit to promote reconciliation after years of fighting and unrest and to see how the U.N. can assist the presidential election.
South Africa's U.N. Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo said the meetings with President Laurent Gbagbo, government officials, political leaders and the head of the Independent Electoral Commission were important to keep the peace process moving.
"It's very important for us to be here to mark this process," he said.
Abidjan is the final stop on the council's six-nation cross-continent trip to African hotspots. It started in Nairobi, Kenya, then flew to Djibouti, where talks on Somalia were taking place, then on to Sudan, Chad and Congo.
Kumalo cited progress since last year's peace deal: the opposing parties can now visit each other's territory and the question of who can register to vote, "which was a big thing," has been resolved.
Ivory Coast, the world's leading cocoa producer, had been considered one of Africa's most stable countries until it suffered its first coup in 1999. Tension over the rights of immigrants and minority ethnic groups fueled the 2002 coup attempt that ignited war.
The Security Council in January authorized the 9,200-strong U.N. peacekeeping force in Ivory Coast "to support the organization in Ivory Coast of free, open, fair and transparent elections."
That mandate expires on July 30, and is virtually certain to be extended to ensure U.N. support through the Nov. 30 election.
In October 2007, the council authorized the top U.N. envoy in Ivory Coast, Choi Young-jin, to certify "that all stages of the electoral process provide all the necessary guarantees for the holding of open, free, fair and transparent presidential elections in accordance with international standards."
Choi and senior U.N. officials in Ivory Coast briefed the council delegation at the start of a series of meetings on Friday.
The U.N. delegation was scheduled to return to New York on Monday night.