West Africa lead­ers to give Ivory Coast’s Gbagbo ul­ti­ma­tum

The Pak Banker - - 6i Nternational -

ABID­JAN: The pres­i­dents of three West African states were due in Ivory Coast on Tues­day to tell in­ter­na­tion­al­ly­iso­lated in­cum­bent leader Lau­rent Gbagbo to step down or face re­moval by force.

Re­gional and world pow­ers want Gbagbo to cede power to ri­val pres­i­den­tial claimant Alas­sane Ou­at­tara af­ter elec­tions last month pro­voked a dis­pute that has killed more than 170 peo­ple and threat­ens to tip the coun­try back into civil war.

Gbagbo's govern­ment has said it would wel­come the emis­saries-Benin's Boni Yayi, Sierra Leone's Ernest Bai Koroma and Pe­dro Pires of Cape Verde-"as broth­ers and friends and lis­ten to the mes­sage they have to con­vey."

Pro­vi­sional elec­tions re­sults from the Novem­ber 29 poll in the world's largest co­coa grower showed Ou­at­tara with an eight per­cent­age-point win. But the nation's top court, run by a Gbagbo ally, over­turned the re­sults amid al­le­ga­tions of fraud.

The United States and the Euro­pean Union have slapped a travel ban on Gbagbo and his in­ner cir­cle while the World Bank and the re­gional West African cen­tral bank have frozen his fi­nances in an at­tempt to weaken his grip on power. The stand­off turned vi­o­lent this month af­ter Ou­at­tara sup­port­ers tried to seize the state broad­caster's build­ing and clashed with se­cu­rity forces, killing at least 20 peo­ple.

Af­ter sev­eral days of calm, spo­radic gun­fire was heard on Tues­day morn­ing in the Abid­jan neigh­bor­hood of Abobo, a strong­hold of Ou­at­tara sup­port­ers. A Reuters wit­ness said po­lice were chas­ing youths who were try­ing to set up bar­ri­cades with burn­ing tires. It is not known if there are ca­su­al­ties.

Res­i­dents and hu­man rights groups have ac­cused proGbagbo gun­men of ex­tra-ju­di­cial killings, kid­nap­pings and tor­ture since the elec­tion. The U.N. con­demned the vi­o­lence.

The elec­tion was meant to heal the wounds of a 2002-03 civil war that split the coun­try in two, but ex­perts now fear the dis­pute over the re­sults could reignite con­flict.

The turmoil has pushed co­coa fu­tures to re­cent four­month highs amid fears it could even­tu­ally dis­rupt ex­ports. Ivory Coast's Eurobond hit a record low last week on con­cern that the coun­try would not meet a $30 mil­lion bond pay­ment De­cem­ber 31. -Reuters

MOSCOW: Rus­sian Prime Min­is­ter Vladimir Putin, sec­ond right, lis­tens to Fer­nando Bec­ca­l­liFalco, pres­i­dent of GE In­ter­na­tional, left, at a news con­fer­ence af­ter sign­ing an agree­ment with Rus­sian Rostech­nol­ogy and RAO UES. -Ap

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