Ivory Coast opposition calls for external intervention

Guillaume Soro

A top opposition figure called Wednesday for the international community to use force to oust Laurent Gbagbo from the presidency after the disputed election, as a violent power struggle deepened between the incumbent and his rival.

The United Nations and other world leaders recognize Alassane Ouattara as the winner of the Nov. 28 runoff vote. Mr. Ouattara’s prime minister, Guillaume Soro, urged the U.N., European Union, African Union and others to consider intervening to push Mr. Gbagbo out.

“It is obvious that there is one solution left—that of force,” Mr. Soro told France’s i-tele television channel.

Mr. Gbagbo has shown no sign of caving to the pressure, and on Tuesday, he invited an international committee to re-examine the results of the vote, a move that a Ouattara spokesman dismissed as a delaying tactic.

Mr. Soro said that “200 people have been killed by the bullets of Liberian and Angolan mercenaries” in Ivory Coast; he didn’t elaborate, and the numbers couldn’t immediately be confirmed. The U.N. said Sunday that at least 50 people have been killed in Ivory Coast in recent days, and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also has expressed concern about the recruitment of fighters from neighboring Liberia. Hundreds of U.N. peacekeepers have been protecting the hotel where Mr. Ouattara is based.

The Obama administration said Wednesday it is in discussions with France and other countries about expanding the U.N. peacekeeping force in the country. The State Department said buttressing the existing 8,650-strong force could be a way to pressure Mr. Gbagbo to accept the results of elections.

Over the weekend, Mr. Gbagbo ordered all U.N. peacekeepers out of the country—a demand the U.N. rejected.

Meanwhile Wednesday, World Bank head Robert Zoellick said funds for Ivory Coast had been cut off, a move to squeeze Mr. Gbagbo financially.

According to the World Bank website, the global lender has aid commitments to Ivory Coast of $842 million as of January 2010.

“They have already been frozen,” Mr. Zoellick said in Paris after a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy. A World Bank statement added: “The World Bank and the African Development Bank have supported ECOWAS and the African Union in sending the message to President Gbagbo that he lost the elections and he needs to step down.”

The U.S. and EU also are imposing sanctions targeting Mr. Gbagbo, his wife and political allies.

French government spokesman François Baroin said Wednesday that French citizens who can leave Ivory Coast should do so temporarily. At least 13,000 French people are believed to be in Ivory Coast, which maintains close ties to France and was once the crown jewel of its former West African colonial empire.

The U.S. State Department has already ordered most of its personnel to leave because of what officials called a deteriorating security situation and growing anti-Western sentiment.

Germany and Britain advised against travel to the country and urged their citizens there to leave, a day after Nigeria said it evacuated diplomatic staff from the country following an attack on its embassy.
Source: WSJ

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