Ivory Coast: UN council set to lift country's arms embargo

The United Nations Security Council is set to lift a 12-year-old arms embargo on Ivory Coast on Thursday and renew the U.N. peacekeeping mission for a final year, France's U.N. envoy said.

The West African state - the world's top cocoa grower - has emerged from a decade-long crisis that culminated in a brief 2011 war to become a rising economic star. The U.N. arms embargo was imposed in 2004 after an initial 2002-2003 civil war.

A French-drafted resolution will remove the arms embargo and an asset freeze and travel ban on six people, including former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo who is on trial before the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

U.N. peacekeepers have been deployed in Ivory Coast since 2004 and a second draft resolution will renew the U.N. mission for a final time until April 30, 2017. There are currently some 6,900 U.N. troops and police in Ivory Coast, according to the U.N. website.

French U.N. Ambassador Francois Delattre described Ivory Coast as a U.N. "success story" and said both resolutions are due to be adopted by the 15-member Security Council on Thursday.

"This is proof that this council's toolbox, whether we are talking about peacekeeping operations or a sanctions regime, can indeed work, can indeed be decisive ... in helping a country firmly get back on its feet after a crisis," he said.
In 2014, the Security Council partially eased the arms embargo on Ivory Coast and removed a ban on its diamond exports, a measure that U.N. experts said had failed to stop illicit trafficking.

Those U.N. experts, who monitor the arms embargo, said earlier this year that Ivory Coast rebel leader-turned-parliament speaker Guillaume Soro used the 2011 civil war and its aftermath to acquire hundreds of tons of weapons, many of which remain under the control of his loyalists in the army.
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