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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

UN Troops Announce Pullout From Ivory Coast Buffer Zone

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast -- The head of the UN peacekeeping effort in the Ivory Coast has announced that UN troops will soon begin leaving the militarized zone dividing the country's rebel-held north from the government-controlled south.

The drawdown, which follows the signing of a peace accord between the sides, is planned to begin April 16, said General Fernand Marcel Amoussou, the commander of the 7,800-strong United Nations mission in the Ivory Coast.

After an attempted coup set off a civil war in 2002, the Ivory Coast split into two halves separated by a 20-kilometer-wide buffer, known as the "Zone of Confidence."

For four years, the north was controlled by the New Forces Rebels, headed by Guillaume Soro, until a peace deal last month paved the way for Soro to become prime minister of a new unity government.

Part of the peace deal involves the drawdown of international troops, and French military officials earlier announced that 500 of their 3,500 troops in the Ivory Coast would soon begin withdrawing.

The UN peacekeepers are heavily deployed in the militarized land separating the two halves of the Ivory Coast, the world's largest cocoa producer.

Now "the responsibility for maintaining law and order in the Zone of Confidence will be handed over to Ivory Coast's security forces and to the New Forces army," Amoussou said.

Beginning on April 16, the UN peacekeepers will be reassigned, serving in "observation posts" as called for in the peace accord, he said.