ABIDJAN (Reuters) - The United Nations has accused Belarus of violating an arms embargo on Ivory Coast by delivering attack helicopters to the country for incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo.
The alleged arms shipment comes as a post-election power struggle between Gbagbo and his rival Alassane Ouattara, almost universally recognised as winner of a November 28 poll, risks pushing the top cocoa grower back into full-blown civil war.
"The Secretary-General has learned with deep concern that three attack helicopters and related material from Belarus are reportedly being delivered at (Ivory Coast's capital) Yamoussoukro for Mr. Gbagbo's forces," the spokesman for the head of the U.N. said in a statement.
"The first delivery arrived reportedly on a flight which landed this evening and additional flights are scheduled for tomorrow. This is a serious violation of the embargo against Cote d'Ivoire which has been in place since 2004," the statement, issued late on Sunday, added.
There was no immediate comment from Belarus or Gbagbo's camp.
Ivory Coast, split since a 2002-3 war, has been under an arms embargo since 2004, when pro-Gbagbo forces bombed French forces there and then anti-Western clashes erupted after the French responded by destroying Gbagbo's tiny air force.
The election run-off between Gbagbo and Ouattara was meant to cap years of peace talks and transitional government, and pave the way for Ivory Coast to retake its place as a motor of regional economic growth.
But it has instead rekindled the north-south divisions seen during the war, escalating last week to heavy fighting in parts of the main city Abidjan as well as clashes elsewhere, including the west, where rebels started an advance south.