Britain calls on I.Coast's Gbagbo to step aside

26th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

Britain on Sunday called on Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo to step aside and let his rival take over to allow a "swift and peaceful transfer of power."

"The UK is deeply concerned about the ongoing political crisis in [Ivory Coast], the risk of serious instability and the impact on those who have fled the country," said Foreign Secretary William Hague in a statement.

"We believe that former president Gbagbo must step aside and accept the results of the presidential elections."

The statement added that London "echoes the call of West African leaders for a swift and peaceful transfer of power."

The plea came as fears grew that Ivory Coast's political crisis could turn into an all-out war, with Gbagbo warning West African leaders that any attempt to oust him could ruin the regional economy and spark civil war.

Gbagbo appears bent on clinging to power despite his long-time rival Alassane Ouattara having been recognised as the victor in last month's presidential elections by UN vote monitors and world powers.

Three West African presidents will visit Abidjan on Tuesday in a bid to convince the 65-year-old leader to step down, a last-ditch plea that comes backed by a threat of possible military intervention.

"We urge former president Gbagbo to accept the mission of an ECOWAS high level delegation travelling to Abidjan this week," said Hague, referring to the regional bloc, Economic Community of West African States.

"The people of [Ivory Coast] do not deserve to be denied democracy, suffer violence or be forced to flee their country as refugees. Former president Gbagbo has a chance to bring this crisis to a peaceful conclusion."

© 2010 AFP

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