Militias a threat in north Ivory Coast

April 21, 2009 at 8:56 AM

YAMOUSSOUKRO, Ivory Coast, April 21 (UPI) -- A report given to the United Nations warns that militia groups remain in control of natural resources in Ivory Coast and threaten the country's stability.

A U.N.-sponsored group of experts monitoring Ivory Coast reported to the U.N. Security Council that despite an arms embargo, militia groups remain heavily armed and are in control of natural resources in the north of the country, the United Nations reported.

The report said that the militias, which force rent payments from businesses and civilians in the volatile north, could resume hostilities and destabilize Ivory Coast if the fragile government and political situation deteriorate and threaten the economic interests of the militias.

The report also warns that harsh rhetoric targeting the militias could threaten any future political progress.

"It is also imperative to avoid an escalation of verbal confrontation, which would only divert attention from the issues that (really) concern (Ivoirians)," Hamadoun Toure, a spokesperson for the U.N. operation in Ivory Coast, said in a statement.

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