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France, US, EU put financial squeeze on Gbagbo

Reuters

Europe and the US aim to strangle Laurent Gbagbo financially to force him to quit as Côte d’Ivoire’s president after an election they claim was won by his rival Alassane Ouattara. A day of violence Friday left between 11 and 30 dead and Ouattara’s RHDP movement has called on supporters to “remain mobilised”.

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African Union Commission chief Jean Ping left Abidjan Saturday after delivering a letter telling Gbagbo to go. It was signed by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, in his capacity as chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), which has suspended Côte d’Ivoire as a member.

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Friday called on African nations to use force if necessary to oust Gbagbo.

Washington, the European Union (EU) and Côte d’Ivoire’s west African allies have told Gbagbo that he must hand over power to Ouattara. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that “any other outcome would make a mockery of democracy and the rule of law”.

France has called on Gbagbo to leave office by the end of the week and wants to cut off his funds.

"It is necessary to maintain the pressure, even increasing it through the fact that the only valid banking signatory for the Ivorian state is Ouattara," said French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie.

The European Union is preparing sanctions against 18 of Gbagbo's allies, including freezing their personal bank accounts and issuing visa bans, French officials say.

Ouattara is a former International Monetary Fund (IMF) director and his supporters hope to hit Gbagbo by cutting his access to the country’s primary foreign currency account at West African Central Bank (BCEAO). French development aid and funds linked to exports, such as cocoa and oil, are paid into that account.

The financial campaign also aims to undermine Gbagbo’s support in the military, which has declared that it remains loyal to him, by preventing him paying wages.

But Gbagbo and his supporters are believed to have resources outside international control and sanctions might also increase his support.

Press freedom group Reporters Sans Frontières says several pro-Ouattara dailies were banned on Friday.

State media accused UN forces (Onuci) of arming northern rebel fighters in preparation for “genocide”, as did some of Gbagboa’s lieutenants.

"The Defence and Security Forces of the Ivory Coast call on the national and international community to bear witness to the fact that Onuci no longer plays the role of a neutral force," military spokesperson Colonel Babri Gohourou said.
 

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