Sat, Jan 08, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Ivory Coast’s Gbagbo orders envoys out

‘GLOBAL PROBLEM’:Nigeria and South Africa held more talks on persuading the embattled Ivorian leader to step down, but said military force was still on the table

AFP, ABIDJAN, IVORY COAST

Laurent Gbagbo’s government said it was expelling the British and Canadian envoys from Ivory Coast, because the countries no longer accepted his ambassadors, state TV reported on Thursday.

Both countries reacted by reiterating that they only recognized statements made by Gbagbo’s rival Alassane Ouattara, since they regarded him as the country’s president.

Ouattara himself called on Thursday for a “non-violent operation” by west African special forces to snatch Gbagbo and thus head off the threat of civil war.

Gbagbo government spokesman Ahoua Don Mello read out a statement ordering the expulsion of Britain’s Nicholas James Westcott and Canada’s Marie Isabelle Massip “through the application of the principle of reciprocity.”

Their diplomatic privileges and immunity would remain in place until they left Ivory Coast or until a reasonable amount of time had passed for them to leave, the spokesman said.

London and Ottawa said late last month that they no longer recognized ambassadors appointed by Gbagbo and that they would only accredit new envoys named by his internationally recognized rival, Ouattara.

London’s decision was made in line with a decision taken by Britain’s fellow EU members. Gbagbo’s government responded by saying it would expel envoys whose countries ended its envoys’ accreditations.

A statement from the British Foreign Office said Britain only recognized Ouattara as president.

“The British government does not accept the validity of statements made by others,” it said.

Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon was more blunt.

“Canada does not recognize Laurent Gbagbo’s claim to -government. As such, his request is illegitimate,” he said in a statement.

Gbagbo is under rising pressure to step down following a Nov. 28 presidential run-off the international community says Ouattara won. Since then however, Gbagbo forces have besieged him at a hotel in the commercial capital Abidjan.

He is protected by about 800 UN peacekeepers as well as the ex-rebel New Forces allied with his camp since troops shot dead several of his supporters on Dec. 16.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regional bloc has said it is prepared to use military force as a last resort to oust Gbagbo, who retains control of the army.

Ouattara told reporters on Thursday that west African elite soldiers should take necessary measures, including legitimate force, to snatch Gbagbo and “take him elsewhere.”

“Legitimate force doesn’t mean a force against Ivorians,” he added.

“It’s a force to remove Laurent Gbagbo and that’s been done elsewhere, in Africa and in Latin America, there are non-violent special operations which allow simply to take the unwanted person and take him elsewhere.”

The latest bid by ECOWAS and the African Union to mediate an end to the crisis that has seen at least 210 people killed floundered on Tuesday. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan is the current chairman of ECOWAS.

African powerhouses Nigeria and South Africa held more talks on efforts to persuade Gbagbo to step down, with Nigeria’s foreign minister saying military force -remained on the table to resolve what he called a “global problem.”

Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs Odein Ajumogobia declined to discuss details of Thursday’s talks with his South African counterpart Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, but said all was being done to resolve the crisis diplomatically.

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