Watch the Sitholes every Thursday at 17h30 on e.tv
New York - The United Nations Security Council on Wednesday voted to extend the mandate of UN and French peacekeeping forces in divided Ivory Coast until June 30.
In an unanimous vote, the 15-member council also decided to review the mandates of the UN force known as ONUCI and the French "stabilisation force" known as "Licorne" "in the light of the
progress achieved in the implementation of the peace process" spelled out in a council resolution adopted last year.
As of November 20 last year, more than 8 000 UN "blue helmets" were deployed in cocoa-rich Ivory Coast, a former French colony in West Africa, alongside 4 000 French soldiers.
The forces are overseeing a fragile ceasefire between rebels in the north and the government forces of President Laurent Gbagbo in control of the south.
The council resolution spelled out in detail the tasks entrusted to the UN and French forces, including disarmament and dismantling of militias, identification of the population and registration of voters, monitoring the arms embargo, support for the organisation of open, free, fair and transparent polls later this year and support for humanitarian aid.
In his last report on the Ivory Coast released last month, the former UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, recommended that the UN should extend its deployment there by almost a year until December
Also in December, the Security Council extended until Wednesday the mandate of UN peacekeepers and the French troops, in what diplomats described as a "technical rollover" pending US approval for a longer extension of the mandate.
In a separate resolution, the council then decided to extend for another six months the mandate of a panel of UN experts tasked with monitoring the arms embargo in Ivory Coast.
It also renewed until next October 31 the arms and rough diamond bans imposed on Ivory Coast. But it indicated that it could consider modifying or even lifting them before next October if the necessary conditions are met.
The council also threatened to impose sanctions against individuals deemed to be undermining peace and national reconciliation, committing human rights violations or obstructing the activities of UNOCI or the French forces.
Last November, the Security Council adopted a resolution extending Gbagbo's term for one year. It also asked Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny to organise the presidential election by the
end of October 2007. - Sapa-AFP