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A growing threat in Ivory Coast ; U.N. peacekeepers facing more risk

Some people yell "U.N. out!" as the Jordanian U.N. peacekeepers pass by in their armored personnel carriers, but these soldiers don't understand French. One man honks his horn before dragging his thumb across his throat in a gesture that cannot be misunderstood.

The United Nations declared Alassane Ouattara the winner of Ivory Coast's long-delayed presidential vote, but incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo has refused to step aside now for more than a month. Gbagbo accuses the U.N. of failing to remain neutral, and the U.N. has ignored his demand for thousands of peacekeepers leave.

Now peacekeepers patrolling the streets of Abidjan are coming under growing threat -- one was wounded with a machete last week when a crowd in a pro-Gbagbo neighborhood attacked a convoy and set a U.N. vehicle on fire. The next day, a U.N. patrol was fired upon from a nearby building as an angry crowd surrounded them. They were forced to fire into the air to disperse the crowd, a U.N. statement said.

"Any attack against peacekeepers constitutes a crime under international law, for which the perpetrators and those who instigate them will be held accountable," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has warned, a U.N. spokesman said.

"Ivory Coast is at war," Ouattara's prime minister, Guillaume Soro, said Saturday, before calling on the international community to intervene with "legitimate force."

West African leaders from the Economic Community of West African States are due to arrive today in Abidjan to negotiate Gbagbo's departure.

The U.N. confirms that at least 173 people have died in the last two weeks, and the global body suspects that more may have died though pro-Gbagbo security forces have prevented them from investigating. The sites of two purported mass graves have still not been inspected by investigators.

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