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UNHCR halts west I.Coast operations

GENEVA, Mar 4 – The UN refugees agency has been forced to halt plans to build a camp for the displaced in west Ivory Coast, and suspend all activities in the region due to security fears, a spokeswoman said Friday.

Melissa Fleming, spokeswoman for UNHCR pointed out that some 70,000 have been displaced in the western part of the country and that the agency was planning to build a camp for them.

"But we had to cease all of that construction," she said.

"And we\’re not operating there anymore unfortunately due to the fighting and the insecurity," she told journalists, noting that heavy clashes have taken place around the west\’s Duekoue and Blolequin.

Beyond the west, access of aid agencies to the needy was also being choked off in Abidjan, where the number of displaced people has now reached 200,000, the agency said.

"We do still have our staff in Abidjan, but we see roadblocks outside our office. It is now very difficult for us to move around and reach the people in need, we\’re having to rely more and more on local NGOs," said Fleming.

The UN Security Council warned Thursday that the Ivory Coast conflict was spiralling towards civil war.

The country has been in conflict since a presidential election last November as strongman Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognized winner of the polls, have been unable to find a settlement to end the crisis.

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