By Samuel Rubenfeld
Turns out the helicopters were never there, according to a Reuters report.
A senior United Nations official apologized for mistaken allegations made by the secretary general that an illegal shipment of attack helicopters had been delivered by Belarus to Ivory Coast’s incumbent leader, breaching a six-year old embargo.
After Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon made the accusation, diplomats on the U.N. Security Council questioned the veracity of his statements because they were not independently confirmed by the peacekeepers on the ground.
On Wednesday, peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy told reporters: “I must admit the report from the mission … was a mistake. There was no plane landed.”
Le Roy said there would be an internal investigation into the matter, and that he met with the Belarus U.N. mission to apologize and to “express our deep regrets,” according to the report.
The intelligence cited by the U.N. in making the accusation came from the U.S., several diplomats told Reuters, and it was deemed credible by the U.N. Group of Experts.
Ivory Coast is in the middle of a post-election standoff that could throw the West African nation into a civil war. Incumbent Laurent Gbagbo lost a November election to Alassane Ouattara, according to international observers, but he refuses to cede power in the face of international condemnation and sanctions, along with bank runs choking funding for his regime.
Ouattara’s government, operating out of a U.N.-protected hotel, has instituted an embargo on cocoa, the country’s chief export, that he extended until March 15.