Ivory Coast Gbagbo camp says threat of force unjust

* Gbagbo camp says surprised by international pressure

* ECOWAS to deliver ultimatum to Gbagbo

* Standoff has killed nearly 200, could rekindle civil war

By Felix Bate

ABIDJAN, Dec 25 (BestGrowthStock) – The government of Ivory Coast
incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo said on Saturday a threat of
force by West African leaders calling for him to step down after
last month’s disputed election was “unjust”.

Heads of state from regional bloc ECOWAS late on Friday
added to world pressure on Gbagbo to cede power to rival
presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara, saying he could face
“legitimate force” if he refuses.

It was the first direct threat of foreign military
intervention in the election standoff, which has killed nearly
200 people since the Nov. 28 vote and threatens to rekindle a
civil war in the world’s top cocoa grower.

The United States, which has imposed travel sanctions on
Gbagbo and his inner circle, said late on Friday it supported
ECOWAS’s role in solving the crisis.

“We are surprised that there is such an escalation of
sanctions and taking of positions against Ivory Coast over an
election dispute,” said Gbagbo’s government spokesman Ahoua Don
Mello in an interview with Radio France Internationale on
Saturday. “That is very unjust.”

The ECOWAS declaration said the bloc would send an envoy to
Ivory Coast to deliver an ultimatum to Gbagbo. It did not
specify when the envoy would be sent or who the envoy would be
and officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

RECOGNITION OF RESULT

The United States, United Nations, European Union, African
Union and ECOWAS have all recognised the provisional electoral
commission results showing Ouattara as the winner.

But Gbagbo has shown no sign of caving in and insists he won
the election after the Constitutional Court, which is headed by
one of his allies, threw out hundreds of thousands of votes from
pro-Ouattara constituencies.

The standoff turned violent last week after brief gun
battles between government soldiers loyal to Gbagbo and rebels
who now back Ouattara. The United Nations and human rights
groups have said gunmen are now attacking pro-Ouattara
neighbourhoods by night, kidnapping and killing people.

Deteriorating security in the former French colony led
France this week to urge its 13,000 citizens there to leave.

The West African regional central bank last week cut Gbagbo
off from the Ivorian accounts, deepening a cash crunch that
could make it hard for him to continue paying the wages of
soldiers who back him.

The move came on the heels of a decision by the World Bank
to freeze some $800 million in committed financing.

Military support for Gbagbo is regarded as one of the main
reasons he has been able to defy calls to step down.

Ivory Coast’s $2.3 billion bond (XS0496488395=R: ) due in 2032
fell to a record low last week as investors worried that the
country would not meet a $30 million bond payment on Dec. 31.

The turmoil in Ivory Coast has also thrust cocoa prices up
to recent four-month highs, disrupting export registrations and
raising fears that fighting could block transport and shipping.

Ivory Coast Gbagbo camp says threat of force unjust