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Ivory Coast opposition wants President Gbagbo ousted by force

Ivory Coast opposition leader and internationally recognized President-elect Alassane Ouattara urged international bodies to force Laurent Gbagbo from the presidency.

By Marco Chown OvedAssociated Press / December 22, 2010

UN forces stand guard on a street in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on Dec. 22. France urged its citizens to leave Ivory Coast on Wednesday after the UN chief warned the former French colony in West Africa faces 'a real risk' of return to civil war following the disputed presidential election.

Sunday Alamba/AP

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Abidjan, Ivory Coast

A top opposition figure called Wednesday for the international community to use force to oust Laurent Gbagbo from the presidency after the disputed election, as France urged its citizens to get out amid growing fears of civil war.

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The United Nations and other world leaders recognize Alassane Ouattara as the winner of the Nov. 28 runoff vote. His prime minister, Guillaume Soro, urged the UN, European Union, African Union and others to consider intervening to push Gbagbo out.

"It is obvious that there is one solution left — that of force," Guillaume Soro told France's i-tele television channel. He added that "200 people have been killed by the bullets of Liberian and Angolan mercenaries" in Ivory Coast but he did not elaborate and the numbers could not immediately be confirmed.

The UN said Sunday that at least 50 people have been killed in Ivory Coast in recent days, and the UN chief also has expressed concern about the recruitment of fighters from neighboring Liberia.

Still, there appears to be little international interest in a military intervention in Ivory Coast. The United States and the EU are imposing sanctions targeting Gbagbo, his wife and political allies. Hundreds of UN peacekeepers have been protecting the hotel where Ouattara is based.

Over the weekend, Gbagbo ordered all UN peacekeepers out of the country immediately in an escalation of tensions. The UN considers Ouattara president and is staying put, raising fears that UN personnel and other foreigners could be targeted in violence as tensions mount.

The US State Department has already ordered most of its personnel to leave because of what officials called a deteriorating security situation and growing anti-Western sentiment. Germany's Foreign Ministry also has recommended that its nationals leave.

French government spokesman Francois Baroin said Wednesday that French citizens who can leave Ivory Coast should do so temporarily. At least 13,000 French people are currently believed to be in Ivory Coast, which maintains close ties to France and was once the crown jewel of its former West African colonial empire.

After a meeting in Paris with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, World Bank chief Robert Zoellick also confirmed Wednesday that loans have been halted to Ivory Coast. The World Bank's aid commitment to Ivory Coast was $841.9 million as of January 2010, according to the bank's website.

"The World Bank has currently stopped lending and disbursing funds to the Ivory Coast and the World Bank's office (in Abidjan) has been closed," a statement from the agency said.

"The World Bank and the African Development Bank have supported (regional bloc) ECOWAS and the African Union, in sending the message to President Gbagbo that he has lost the election and needs to step down," it said.

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