Tuesday, December 21, 2010

U.S. Talks Tough on Ivory Coast

Special Reports

U.S. talks tough on Ivory Coast

Published: Dec. 21, 2010 at 10:27 AM

WASHINGTON, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- The international community isn't going to ignore the Ivory Coast no matter how long the political stalemate lasts, a top U.S. official on African affairs said.

Laurent Gbagbo is clinging to power despite international support for former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara. Both men issued claims to the presidency following a November runoff election meant to unite a country divided by civil war in 2002.

Gbagbo pressured U.N. peacekeepers to leave the country and has refused to step down despite a mandate from the U.N. Security Council.

William Fitzgerald, U.S. deputy assistance secretary for African affairs, told The Wall Street Journal a travel ban on Gbagbo and his supporters would go into effect Tuesday.

"He may very well be trying to ignore us and be hoping that we'll forget and go away or focus on another issue," he said. "I can only remind him that this is a unanimous international community. We're not going away and we're not going to forget this."

Government officials loyal to Gbagbo shrugged off the international pressure, saying U.N. forces would be considered "part of the rebellion" by forces supporting the former president.

U.N. officials note that at least 50 people were killed since violence erupted in the Ivory Coast last week. Fitzgerald said he's heard reports of mass graves near Abidjan.

"We're extremely troubled today about the rumors of human-rights abuses, disappearances of journalists and others, and we're working with the U.N. to confirm all of those," he said.

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