Gbagbo minister dismisses UN charges, EU sanctions

At a news conference yesterday, Emile Guirieoulou insisted most victims of the violence that erupted last week were from loyalist security forces and warned the UN not to deal with Gbagbo rival Alassane Ouattara's shadow government.

"In all the demonstrations we've recorded a toll of 25 people, 14 of them members of the Defence and Security Forces (FDS)," he told reporters.

"It is in our ranks that we count the greatest number of victims," he insisted, praising the FDS for their "restraint and professionalism" which he said had "prevented a bloodbath and limited the damage and death toll."

On Sunday, UN high commissioner for human rights Navi Pillay said the violence had accounted for 50 dead and accused elements of the FDS of supporting alleged night-time raids by kidnappers and death squads.

The head if the UN mission in Ivory Coast and the civilian chief of the 10,000-strong UNOCI peacekeeping force, Choi Young-jin, accused the FDS of harassing his troops and threatening international envoys.

Guirieoulou dismissed this, declaring: "We demand UNOCI leaves, the rest is just a diversion. It shouldn't act against our will on our territory.

"If it chooses to talk to people other than the authorities, it puts itself in a position of revolt, and will be dealt with accordingly," he warned, in an apparent reference to allegations that the UN force backs Ouattara.

As to the European Union's decision to impose a visa ban on Gbagbo, his wife Simone and 17 senior allies, Guirieoulou said it made him smile: "It's just a red rag they wave before African leaders, thinking it makes us scared."

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