UN chief Ban Ki-moon Thursday urged Ivory Coast's political leaders to hold long-delayed elections on November 30, after they signed a pact promising a fair vote in a country split by a 2002 uprising.
"We discussed with President (Laurent) Gbagbo and Prime Minister (Guillaume) Soro the importance of carrying out this election as scheduled," Ban said, insisting that "the parties commit to respecting ballot results."
The United Nations secretary general, currently visiting the west African country and the world's top cocoa grower, said the leaders of political parties had signed a "goodwill code."
"With this ... political parties and candidates commit to respecting the utmost ethical norms, before, during and after the vote," Ban said.
The agreement outlawed campaigning along racial, ethnic and religious lines for the presidential elections, recently postponed to November 30.
But Ban underlined the need to hold firm to that timetable, adding that in the event of "unforeseen" financial obstacles, the international community would, in his opinion, "provide the necessary assistance".
President Gbagbo, whose mandate officially ended in 2005, was one of the leaders who signed the pact.
"I hope everybody respects this document word for word," Gbagbo said.
According to the text of the accord, the parties committed to refrain from violence and "not to release the results before an official announcement by an independent electoral commission."
The document also states that political parties must not support or finance rebel groups and must respect press freedom and protect journalists.
Since 2002, political and military crises have repeatedly hampered preparations for a presidential election.
That year, Ivory Coast was split in two by a rebellion-cum-attempted-coup, which killed thousands and divided the country between the rebel-controlled north and Gbagbo's government-controlled south.
Contested elections in 2000, which had brought Gbagbo to power, were also marred by violence as former president Henri Konan Bedie and ex-prime minister Alassane Ouattara were not allowed to run, the latter on ethnic grounds.
A peace deal last year provided for elections, the disbanding of militias and the appointment of former rebel leader Soro as prime minister in a power-sharing agreement with Gbagbo.
Under the 2007 accord the United Nations and French forces are expected to provide security during the elections and then to withdraw entirely.