Ivory Coast election result deadline is missed

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Media captionAn ally of President Gbagbo tore up the first batch of results on Tuesday

Tension is high in Ivory Coast after a deadline was missed to publish the results of Sunday's election run-off.

The head of the electoral commission, Youssouf Bakoyoko, said it was still working to reach a consensus on the results, which have been disputed.

Supporters of President Laurent Gbagbo, and those of the opposition leader, Alassane Ouattara, have accused each other of trying to rig the poll.

The election is supposed to reunify a country divided since a 2002 civil war.

Some 8,000 UN peacekeepers are on alert in case the dispute leads to renewed conflict in the world's largest cocoa producer, which used to be seen as a haven of peace and prosperity in West Africa.

On Tuesday night, the president's representative at the electoral commission publicly tore up the first batch of results amid calls for votes from the former rebel-held north to be annulled. The region is where Mr Ouattara is most popular.

Damana Adia Pickass said there had been an "electoral hold-up".

Mr Ouattara's allies have meanwhile accused the president of trying to block the announcement of the result because he has lost.

The main international observer missions do not support Mr Gbagbo's claims of widespread fraud in the north.

"The second round of the election took place, I would say, in a generally democratic climate," the UN spokesman in Ivory Coast, Hamadoun Toure, told the BBC.

The former colonial power France, the UN, EU and US have urged the Ivorian authorities to announce the results of Sunday's run-off.

Deserted streets

The BBC's John James in the main city Abidjan says the electoral commission includes representatives from both sides and they cannot agree, meaning the results cannot be announced.

The long delay has led to mounting tension. Banks have been closed and the streets in the commercial district were almost entirely deserted on Wednesday, our reporter says.

A presidential decree has extended the 1900-0600 curfew until Saturday.

One reliable source told the BBC the officials of the electoral commission had agreed on results from 13 of Ivory Coast's 19 regions, but that the remaining regions were being contested.

The head of the UN's peacekeeping mission, Young-jin Choi, is continuing to shuttle between the various camps and election commission to try to get the results published.

Mr Toure said the UN was disappointed that promises to publish the results quickly in the second round had been broken.

"Whoever wins, wins, whoever loses, loses - that's democracy. They should only resort to democratic means to settle disputes," he told the BBC.

Mr Ouattara told reporters on Wednesday afternoon the uncertainty over the results was worrying.

"It is imperative that the president of the electoral commission proclaims the results," he said.

French concern

Earlier, French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie told French radio that "the results must be published today [Wednesday]".

She also said that French forces would be able to intervene if French nationals or interests were affected.

France retains close economic ties to its former colony but Mr Gbagbo's supporters have previously accused France of bias, and French targets in the country have been attacked.

Our reporter points out that the UN peacekeeping mission has copies of the results from all the polling centres and will be able to verify if what is published by the commission corresponds to 20,000 individual results.

The result is expected to be extremely close - testament to the fact these are the first open democratic elections the country has seen in 50 years since independence.

The two candidates represent the two sides of the north-south divide that exists religiously, culturally and administratively, with the northern half still controlled in part by New Forces soldiers who took part in the 2002 rebellion, our reporter says.

The New Forces have officially joined the government in a power-sharing deal.

The elections have been cancelled six times in the past five years.

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