Malians join exodus from Ivory Coast violence

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Malians join exodus from Ivory Coast violence

Malians join exodus from Ivory Coast violence
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The threat of civil war in Ivory Coast is forcing thousands of foreigners to flee.

In the main city Abidjan, hundreds of people from Mali desperately tried to find a place on buses rented by their government to bring them home. Many climbed through windows in the rush to get aboard.

More than two million Malians live in neighbouring Ivory Coast. Forces loyal to incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo are said to have attacked foreigners whose countries have backed his rival Alassane Ouattara.

At the United Nations, France and Nigeria have put forward a draft resolution to impose sanctions on Gbagbo and his inner circle, and ban heavy weapons from Abidjan.

“You may be aware that the Gbagbo people have actually used mortars against civilian neighbourhoods, so it is very important to do it,” said the French ambassador to the UN, Gérard Araud.

Ivory Coast’s neighbours, fearing a flood of refugees, have called for the UN’s peacekeeping mandate to be strengthened to protect civilians more robustly.

The UN refugee agency says up to a million people overall have fled the Abidjan area alone.

Many have arrived in Liberia. Fighting has been reported in border areas, with Liberian mercenaries suspected of being involved, and there are fears the conflict could spread.

The UN Human Rights Council is to send an independent commission to Ivory Coast to investigate killings and other crimes.

Gbagbo alleges vote rigging in November’s disputed presidential election and refuses to step down in favour of Alassane Ouattara, who is recognised internationally as the victor.