PARIS – France has urged its nationals in Ivory Coast to leave, as a crisis over disputed elections continues, according to BBC. Government spokesman Francois Baroin said the measure was “precautionary”. There are approximately 15,000 French citizens in the West African country. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has warned it could slip into civil war and that incumbent Laurent Gbagbo was trying to expel peacekeepers. World Bank head Robert Zoellick said financing to the state had been frozen.
The international community recognises Gbagbo’s rival Alassane Ouattara as victor. Gbagbo says the poll, meant to unify the country split by the 2002 war, was rigged in rebel areas. The Constitutional Council said he had won. “We ask those who can to leave Ivory Coast temporarily until the situation normalises,” Baroin said. Correspondents say there are fears that 10,000 UN personnel and other foreigners could be targeted as tensions increase.
Ouattara and his supporters are currently holed up in the Golf Hotel in the main city Abidjan, protected by 800 peacekeepers. Gbagbo has said he can leave but a blockade of the hotel remains. No supplies or medicines are being allowed in. An ally of Gbagbo has warned the peacekeepers that they could be treated as rebels if they do not leave. On Tuesday, Ban said there was a “real risk” of a return to civil war. “I am concerned that this disruption of life-support supplies for the mission and the Golf Hotel will put our peacekeepers in a critical situation in the coming days,” he said. “Facing this direct and unacceptable challenge to the legitimacy of the United Nations, the world community cannot stand by,” he added.
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