WRAPUP 5-W. African bank freezes out Ivory Coast’s Gbagbo

* West African c.bank blocks funds to Gbagbo

* U.S. says nearly 200 feared killed in violence so far

* U.N. Human Rights Council unanimously condemns violence

(Recasts with bank cutting Gbagbo funds)

By Tim Cocks and Alberto Dabo

ABIDJAN/BISSAU, Dec 23 (BestGrowthStock) – West Africa’s central
bank cut funds to Ivory Coast’s Laurent Gbagbo on Thursday,
adding to pressure on the defiant leader to step down after a
disputed poll world powers and neighbours say he lost.

At least 173 people have been killed following the Nov. 28
election, the U.N. said on Thursday, as its human rights body
unanimously condemned the political violence and called for
reconciliation to avoid a renewed civil war.

World powers and African states have thrown their support
behind Gbagbo’s rival presidential claimant, Alassane Ouattara,
who has set up a parallel government based in a lagoon-side
Abidjan hotel, heavily guarded by U.N. peacekeepers.

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“The council of ministers has taken note of the decisions of
the U.N., the African Union, and of (West African regional body)
ECOWAS, to recognise Alassane Ouattara as the legitimate elected
president of Ivory Coast,” said a statement from the Central
Bank of the West African Economic and Monetary Union, read over
Guinea Bissau’s Bombolon radio.

The statement, issued after a meeting of ministers in Guinea
Bissau, added that only appointed members of the “legitimate
government” would be permitted to access funds held in the
central bank’s accounts.

The move follows a World Bank decision on Wednesday to
freeze some $800 million in committed financing to Ivory Coast,
adding to expectations that Gbagbo may soon struggle to pay
public wages — including to troops — and make debt repayments.

Ivory Coast’s $2.3 billion bond due 2032 (XS0496488395=R: )
fell nearly a point to a record low on Thursday as investors
worried that the country would be unable to meet a $30 million
bond payment on Dec. 31. [ID:nLDE6BM1IS]

Gbagbo’s Finance Minister Desire Dalo did not comment when
reached by telephone.

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

HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS

“Between 16 and 21 December, human rights officers have
substantiated allegations of 173 killings, 90 instances of
torture and ill treatment, 471 arrests and detentions and 24
cases of enforced or involuntary disappearances,” Kyung-wha
Kang, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, told a special
session of the U.N. rights council.

U.S. ambassador Betty E. King told the council’s meeting in
Geneva that yet more may have died.

“We have credible reports that almost 200 people may have
already been killed, with dozens more tortured or mistreated,
and others may have been snatched from their homes in the middle
of the night,” she said.

A statement issued by the U.N. mission in Ivory Coast on
Thursday said that masked supporters of Gbagbo armed with rocket
launchers have been blocking a road to Anyama, around N’Dotre,
which it said is “a village outside Abidjan where allegations
point to existence of a mass grave”.

The United States, United Nations, European Union, African
Union and ECOWAS have all recognised provisional electoral
commission results showing Ouattara as the winner, with the U.S.
and EU issuing sanctions on Gbagbo and his inner circle.

But Gbagbo has shown no sign of caving in to the pressure
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 election in the former regional star economy was meant
to reunite the country following a 2002-03 civil war, but has
instead aggravated divisions.

A spokesman for Ivory Coast’s army said on Wednesday that
government troops were united behind Gbagbo.

“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.

Military support for Gbagbo is seen as one of the main
reasons he is able to defy calls to step down. Earlier the prime
minister of Ouattara’s rival government, former rebel Guillaume
Soro, said the “only solution” to the crisis was for world
leaders to use force to oust Gbagbo if other measures fail.

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

Henri de Raincourt, French Minister in Charge of
Cooperation, told Radio France International that any military
effort to oust Gbagbo would need to be led by African states.

The U.S. State Department said Washington was discussing
moves to strengthen the 10,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force in
Ivory Coast with former colonial power France and African states
in a move that could add pressure on Gbagbo.
(Additional reporting by Jean-Baptiste Vey in Paris,
Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Bate Felix in Abidjan, Louis
Charbonneau in New York; Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing
by Peter Graff)

WRAPUP 5-W. African bank freezes out Ivory Coast’s Gbagbo