The government of Ivory Coast’s incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo, says it will sever ties with countries that recognize envoys named by presidential challenger Alassane Ouattara.
A government statement Tuesday said it will expel ambassadors from countries that cut ties with Gbagbo appointees.
Earlier Tuesday, three West African presidents traveled to Abidjan to demand President Gbagbo accept the results of last month’s elections and step down or face possible removal by West African military forces.
The presidents from Sierra Leone, Cape Verde and Benin met with Mr. Gbagbo at his presidential palace Tuesday and later in the day met with Mr. Ouattara. The delegation did not issue a statement after the meetings and Benin’s president, Boni Yayi, said only that all went well.
Mr. Gbagbo and Mr. Ouattara both claim they won the November presidential election. The international community, including the African Union and the United Nations have recognized Mr. Ouattara as the winner
In a sign of mounting tensions, a crowd attacked a United Nations convoy Tuesday, wounding one peacekeeper with a machete and setting fire to a vehicle. The U.N. mission in Ivory Coast has refused a demand from Mr. Gbagbo to leave the country.
The United Nations says more than 170 Ivorians have been killed in clashes since the presidential election, which was intended to stabilize Ivory Coast eight years after a civil war divided the country.
A spokesman for Mr. Ouattara told VOA that Mr. Gbagbo should be forced to step down as a deterrent to other African rulers who may also want to cling to power.
Mr. Gbagbo, who has been in power in Ivory Coast for 10 years, told France’s Le Figaro newspaper Sunday any attempt to use force to remove him from power could start a war in West Africa.
He said he takes threats against him seriously but will not back down. Mr. Gbagbo accused France and the United States of plotting to drive him from power, but a U.S. official called that charge absurd.
Following last month’s election, Ivory Coast’s electoral commission announced that Mr. Ouattara won the presidency with 54 percent of the vote. But the constitutional court, led by a Gbagbo ally, threw out 10 percent of the ballots, saying they were fraudulent, and declared Mr. Gbagbo had won re-election.
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