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UN Says Illegal Helicopter Deliveries Going to Ivory Coast

Published on Monday 28th February 2011

A spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says three attack helicopters are reportedly being delivered to forces supporting incumbent Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo.In a statement issued Sunday in New York, the spokesman called the deliveries "a serious violation of the embargo against Ivory Coast" in place since 2004.  The statement said Mr. Ban warned both Mr. Gbagbo and the supplier of the equipment that "appropriate action will be taken."  He also called for the U.N. Security Council to meet "urgently" to discuss the issue. The spokesman said one delivery flight has already landed and additional flights are scheduled for Monday.Meanwhile, fighting between supporters of the country's rival presidents on Sunday knocked state television off the air in the largest city, Abidjan.  Mr. Gbagbo is refusing to yield power to Alassane Ouattara, who is recognized internationally as the winner of November's disputed presidential election.Residents of Abidjan reported Sunday seeing smoke and fire rising from the transmitter of RTI state television.  They say supporters of Mr. Gbagbo and Mr. Ouattara had clashed near the transmitter overnight.  Mr. Gbagbo has used RTI to broadcast official statements and his version of events since the Ivory Coast political crisis began nearly three months ago.Meanwhile, the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast says three peacekeepers were wounded Sunday in an ambush in the Abidjan suburb of Abobo.  The U.N. says that under international treaties, an attack on peacekeepers is a war crime.The Gbagbo government accuses U.N. peacekeepers of helping those it calls rebel forces - a charge the U.N. calls a lie. Supporters of the two rivals claiming the presidency have fought gun battles in several areas of Ivory Coast during the past week.  U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is warning that Ivory Coast may slip back into civil war.A brief civil war in 2002 left the country divided into a rebel-controlled north and a government-run south.The United Nations says at least 315 people have been killed since the release of election results in early December.  The U.N., African Union, and most countries recognize Mr. Ouattara as the winner of November's election.Ivory Coast is the world's leading cocoa grower, and the political standoff has sent cocoa prices skyrocketing.

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