France says Gbagbo 'plundering' Ivory Coast cocoa
France on Wednesday accused Laurent Gbagbo of "plundering" Ivory Coast's strategic cocoa and coffee industries after he ordered his government to seize them as he defiantly clings to power.
Gbagbo's move was an "illegal decision" which amounted to "the plundering of the cocoa and coffee businesses in Ivory Coast," French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero told reporters.
Gbagbo on Tuesday ordered his government to take control of the key purchases and exports, so far dominated by multinational companies, as he resists global pressure to cede power to his rival Alassane Ouattara.
Former colonial ruler France and other international powers recognise Ouattara as winner of November's presidential election, but Gbagbo refuses to step down. The standoff has sparked deadly violence and fears of civil war.
His move for the commodities exports "has no force in law since it comes from authorities which do not have legitimacy to make decisions in the name of the Ivorian state," Valero said.
"It is a plundering of private operators which will further deepen the economic crisis into which Gbagbo -- who has already attacked the central bank -- has plunged the country."
The United States earlier condemned Gbagbo's move as "theft."
Gbagbo is under pressure from sanctions by the European Union which notably target Ivory Coast's key ports of Abidjan and San Pedro.
"France urges all international economic operators to continue blocking all illegal exportation of Ivorian cocoa, as the legitimate Ivorian authorities have requested," Valero said, referring to Ouattara's rival administration.
Ivory Coast produces nearly a third of the world's cocoa beans, according to the International Cocoa Organisation.
© 2011 AFP