Ivory Coast: Forced removal of incumbent President called for

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Ivory Coast president elect Alassane Ouattara has called for the use of force to remove incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo, who is refusing to admit defeat and step down, further increasing the propensity for war.

“It is obvious that there is one solution left – that of force,” PM-elect Guillaume Soro told a French TV station.

The propensity of war increased as Mr. Gbagbo asked the UN peacekeepers to leave the country, threatening to treat them as rebels if they stay, and Ouattara subsequently demanding the use of force to oust Mr. Gbagbo.

In this regard, the Nigerian government withdrew its diplomats and citizens from the country, and on Wednesday, France asked its 15,000 nationals in Ivory Coast to leave, as a precaution following Tuesday comments by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that the country faces “a real risk” of return to civil war.

However, the international community has expressed concern and alertness to the possible outbreak of war with plans underway to curb hostilities.

World Bank chief Robert Zoellick confirmed that the institution had stopped lending and disbursing funds, and that its office in Abidjan had closed. The U.S. and the EU have already imposed travel bans on Gbagbo, his wife and political allies.

But Soro argues that international sanctions had failed to achieve their aim and called for more action to remove Mr. Gbagbo.

According to reports, Nigeria has been contacted as a major troop contributor to West African peacekeeping forces.

“Facing this direct and unacceptable challenge to the legitimacy of the United Nations, the world community cannot stand by,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was quoted as saying.

Experts say strengthening the existing 8,650-strong United Nations force could be a way for the international community to show Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo that it is serious about demands for him to accept the results of elections that he lost last month.

“We are in discussions with other regional countries to see if there are ways in which we can reinforce the UN peacekeeping force. It could be that that kind of reinforcement could be another way to send a clear message to President Gbagbo,” Spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters.

France is also expected to aid peacekeeping given its interests in Ivory Coast, a former colonial possession.

“We can’t rule out that at some point in time [Mr Gbagbo] may challenge the presence of that force through force of his own,” state department spokesman PJ Crowley told reporters.

Crowley added that the U.S. was looking to make sure that the forces on the ground are adequate.

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