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Ivory Coast wants UN drone border surveillance

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Ivory Coast asked the United Nations Tuesday to monitor its border with Liberia with drones to make up for the expected decline in the global body's presence in the African country.

Should a planned withdrawal of UN peacekeepers go into effect, Ivory Coast is seeking "the deployment of qualitative resources such as surveillance drones in the border area," said the country's UN envoy, Youssoufou Bamba.

At the end of March, the UN Security Council had authorized the use of drones in the Democratic Republic of Congo to monitor that country's borders with Rwanda and Uganda -- a first for a peacekeeping mission.

Several Council members had at the time insisted that the move did not set a precedent.

The United Nations foresees reducing its roughly 9,000-strong operation in Ivory Coast, known as UNOCI. Discussions with the Ivory Coast government are ongoing.

"I would like to indicate that the Ivory Coast government believes that the current level is good," Bamba said during a Security Council debate on the situation.

Several Liberian army units were deployed to border posts between the two countries last year to counter armed gangs raiding the Ivorian side from Liberia.

The groups have targeted western Ivory Coast since the end of the country's 2010-2011 crisis, which left 3,000 dead in the wake of a disputed presidential election. In one attack in June 2012, seven UN peacekeepers lost their lives.

The UN assistant secretary general for peacekeeping operations, Edmond Mulet, said "security in the border regions with Liberia saw a significant improvement."

He also cited "reinforced cooperation between Ivory Coast and Monrovia" on the issue but recalled two cross-border attacks sustained by Ivory Coast in March.

The Ivory Coast government has "made significant progress since February 2012 and especially during these past months in regards to the general security situation but the recent instability in the west of the country along the border with Liberia shows the fragility of the situation," he said.

Mulet stressed it was "important to pave the way to political reconciliation" and expressed concern about "reports on the presence of mercenaries and ex-combatants along the border with Liberia" as well as "continued human rights violations by formal and informal security agencies with impunity."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130416/ivory-coast-wants-un-drone-border-surveillance