- Côte d'Ivoire has identified more than 4 million voters in preparation for the much delayed elections, the UN mission in the West African state has revealed. Côte d'Ivoire postponed its elections scheduled for November last year, blaming sluggish voter registration by the electoral commission.
Spokesperson for the UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI), Hamadoun Touré said registration surpassing the 4 million mark was a positive indication despite delays and difficulties which plagued identification and the census on going in the country.
Mr Touré encouraged further efforts to deploy teams to identify more people around the country, which has been divided since 2002 between the Government-held south and a northern area dominated by the rebel Forces Nouvelles.
He said the mission would strengthen its logistical support through special operations that began on Tuesday by air and river and to the interior of the country. The operation is also supporting the identification process with over 200 vehicles, according to the Mission.
"The goal is to help the national structures to attain an optimal enrolment of the target population," said Mr Touré.
Meanwhile the UN Security Council has extended the UNOCI and the French troops mandate in Côte d'Ivoire until 31 July, 2009. However, it has reduced the troop presence by one battalion.
The Security Council's adopted new resolution urged the signatories to Côte d'Ivoire's latest peace agreement to protect vulnerable civilian populations, including hundreds of thousands displaced by the conflict since 2002.
It further urged all political actors in Côte d'Ivoire to agree as soon as possible on a realistic time frame for the polls, after extending UNOCI's mandate.
The resolution notes that despite some improvement in the overall human rights situation, rights violations against civilians continue, "including numerous acts of sexual violence".
The presidential election was originally scheduled for October 2005, but the country failed to go ahead with the planned schedule due to a division between the rebel north and government-controlled south, separated by a buffer zone patrolled by UN and French peacekeepers.
Côte d'Ivoire, a leading cocoa and diamond exporter in western Africa, was split in two after a botched coup attempt by New Forces (FN) rebels in 2002, with the north remaining under FN control.
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