Plane belonging to Gbagbo grounded in France: government

26th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

Authorities grounded a plane belonging to Ivory Coast's incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo on Sunday at an airport in France, the French government said.

The official aircraft of Gbagbo, who is defying international pressure to quit power, was blocked at the Basel-Mulhouse airport, jointly administered by French and Swiss authorities, a French foreign ministry spokesman told AFP.

France and other world powers including the UN Security Council have been urging Gbagbo to cede power to his rival Alassane Ouattara, whom they recognise as the winner of a disputed presidential election last month.

The ministry's spokesman Bernard Valero told AFP the plane was grounded in response to a request by the rival Ivorian government set up by Ouattara.

"The legitimate authorities (of Ivory Coast) asked us to ground the plane and that's exactly what we have done in response to their request," Valero said.

A spokesman from the Swiss federal aviation authority confirmed that the plane was grounded after it stopped there for servicing at Basel-Mulhouse, located just on the French side of the border with Switzerland and Germany.

"A plane belonging to Ivory Coast is parked at Basel-Mulhouse," the spokesman said. "The French authorities blocked the plane."

Gbagbo has been in power for 10 years and rejected UN-certified results that said Ouattara beat him in the November 28 run-off vote.

The United Nations reported last week at least 173 people had been killed in post-election violence there and said on Saturday that about 14,000 Ivorians have fled to neighbouring Liberia to escape violence.

International leaders have warned the West African country could plunge back into civil war if Gbagbo clings on. Major powers have threatened diplomatic and financial sanctions against Gbagbo and his camp.

The European Union has already slapped visa bans on Gbagbo and 18 of his closest allies.

© 2010 AFP

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