Heavy weapons, including machine guns and mortars are used against civilians by pro-Gbagbo forces, says the UN peacekeeping (UNOCI) mission in Ivory Coast.
UNOCI said it is "extremely concerned about the increased use of heavy weapons” and has “recently, observed that the Gbagbo camp is repairing an MI-24 attack helicopter and is also getting multiple rocket launchers ready in Abidjan."
Thousands are fleeing the growing unrest in Ivory Coast. The UN criticised an "unacceptable" shortfall in aid for the west African country.
But the UN Operation in Ivory Coast, on its turn, has been accused of failing to protect civilians from clashes between forces backing the widely recognised President Ouattara and those of presidential claimant Laurent Gbagbo, who refuses to give up power.
Protecting the population
Ouattara's government has urged the UN "to authorise the immediate use of force to protect civilians in imminent danger," charging that the 10,000-strong UN peacekeeping force is not doing enough to protect them.
UN spokesman Hamadan Toure defended the mission, which is expecting reinforcements of 2,000 men. "UNOCI is doing all it can, according to its mandate and resources, to protect the population," he said.
The mission also faces criticism from Gbagbo's camp, which has demanded it leave the country, accusing it of bias towards Ouattara.
As a result, UN vehicles have been burned and its "blue helmets" targeted by Gbagbo supporters.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is meeting today and tomorrow at a summit in Abuja to discuss the situation in Ivory Coast. The regional group has earlier threatened military intervention against Gbagbo unless he steps aside.