Monday, December 13, 2010

West blamed for Ivory Coast standoff

The camp of Ivory Coast's incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo has accused Western diplomats of trying to turn the country's military against him.

On Sunday, Gbagbo, who is under pressure to step down, accused US-led western countries of meddling in the country's internal affairs. 

Meanwhile, the newly-named Interior Minister Emile Guirieoulou accused foreign envoys of seeking to turn the military against Gbagbo. 

Guirieoulou has warned that the Gbagbo-led government "will no longer tolerate meddling by any diplomat in the internal affairs of the state of Ivory Coast." 

"For several days, civil and military members of certain Western chancelleries in Abidjan have discreetly approached senior officers in our national army," AFP quoted him as saying. 

Political crisis is mounting in Ivory Coast as both men claiming presidency are involved in a bitter standoff over who should hold the post. 

The country's ten-year President Gbagbo says he is ready to sit down and talk. 

But his rival Alassane Ouattara says he would not negotiate unless Gbagbo steps down from office and respects the will of the Ivorian nation and the international community. 

Following South Africa's former President Thabo Mbeki's visit to the country, the African Union suspended the membership of Ivory Coast for as long as Gbagbo remains in office. 

The UN Security Council has also threatened to impose sanctions on the country unless Gbagbo lets go of the presidential seat. 

The country's Electoral Commission declared Ouattara as the winner of the November 28th run-off vote. 

Gbagbo's allies, however, rejected the outcome by alleging fraud. Both contenders have sworn themselves in as president and have appointed governments. 

The disputed presidential election has raised the risk of a long power struggle in the country. The world's top cocoa-producing nation is still reeling from the 2002-2003 civil war, which split the West African country in two.

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