UPDATE 1-Ivorian army says unified for Gbagbo despite pressure

* Army spokesman says military united behind Gbagbo

* Ouattara aide says force may be needed to oust incumbent

* Gbagbo gov’t tries to reassure on salaries
(adds state paper on finances, rally)

By Tim Cocks

ABIDJAN, Dec 23 (BestGrowthStock) – Ivory Coast’s army stands united
behind incumbent Laurent Gbagbo, a spokesman said, after a top
aide of rival presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara said world
leaders may have to use force to oust him.

Separately, the state-run newspaper said that Gbagbo’s
signature was still being recognised on state accounts at the
central bank of West Africa’s monetary union, despite African
leaders recognising Ouattara as president-elect.

Ministers from the West African Economic and Monetary Union
bloc are scheduled to meet later on Thursday in Guinea-Bissau to
discuss Ivory Coast, a bank official told Reuters.

Gbagbo is under international pressure to quit after a Nov.
28 election that major powers say he lost to Ouattara, deepening
a dispute in the West African state that has already killed 50
people and threatened to rekindle civil war.

“There is no doubt about the cohesion as perfect brothers in
arms of the security and defence forces,” army spokesman Babri
Gohourou said in an address on state TV late on Wednesday. “(We)
also reaffirm our unfailing attachment to the president.”

Military support for Gbagbo is seen as one of the reasons he
is able to defy calls to step down.

The comment came hours after the prime minister of
Ouattara’s rival government, Guillaume Soro, said the “only
solution” to the crisis was for world leaders to use force to
oust him if other measures fail.
<^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ For a TAKE A LOOK click on [ID:nCOC754498] Graphic on Ivory Coast http://link.reuters.com/bef62r ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^>

The United States, the United Nations, the European Union,
the African Union and West African bloc ECOWAS have all
recognised electoral commission results showing Ouattara as the
winner of the election and have called on Gbagbo to step down.

The United States and the European Union have also since
slapped travel sanctions on Gbagbo and his inner circle, and the
World Bank on Wednesday froze funding to the country, to which
it has aid commitments of over $800 million.

World Bank President Robert Zoellick said on Wednesday he
had talked to Malian President Amandou Toumani Toure about
getting the bloc to also freeze loans to Ivory Coast.

With the aid freeze and the risk that Gbagbo’s signature may
no longer be recognised on state accounts, some civil servants
are worried their salaries soon won’t be paid.

But the state owned Fraternite Matin on Thursday quoted
Gbagbo’s finance minister as saying that, for the end of this
month at least, they would be.

“Since yesterday, the salaries of officials and agents of
the state of Ivory Coast have been transferred into the
different banks. Civil servants’ salaries are not threatened,” it
said, adding that it would also be able to pay external debt.

“This credibility of the state’s signature is a great source
of motivation for traders and strengthens their confidence in
our institutions.”

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

The standoff turned violent last week after gun battles
broke out briefly between government soldiers and the rebels who
now back Ouattara, and residents of pro-Ouattara neighbourhoods
have said masked gunmen are now breaking into homes by night and
kidnapping people [ID:nLDE6BL0P3].

The turmoil in the world’s top cocoa-producing country has
boosted cocoa prices to recent four-month highs (CCc2: ) (LCCc2: ),
disrupting export registrations and raising the possibility
that fighting could block transport and shipping.

The U.S. State Department said Washington was discussing
moves to strengthen the U.N. peacekeeping force in Ivory Coast
with former colonial power France and African states in a move
that could add pressure on Gbagbo.

The United Nations Security Council this week defied Gbagbo
by extending the mandate of the 10,000 strong force.

The election, delayed repeatedly since 2005, was meant to
reunite the country following a 2002-03 civil war that split it
in two, but it has instead aggravated divisions.

France advised its 13,000 citizens now in the country to
leave as the risk of conflict grows. Germany and Britain also
advised against travel there and urged citizens to leave.

State TV announce that the Young Patriots, who have attacked
French citizens and U.N. personnel before, were due to march
through a middle class suburb of Abidjan on Thursday afternoon.
(Writing by Richard Valdmanis; editing by Giles Elgood)

UPDATE 1-Ivorian army says unified for Gbagbo despite pressure