European countries urge nationals to quit Ivory Coast

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European countries including France and Germany on Wednesday urged their nationals to leave crisis-hit Ivory Coast as tensions escalated in the country's deadly political stand-off.

The recommendations came as European Union travel bans on defiant Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo and his powerful wife Simone entered force, alongside another 17 influential figures.

French government spokesman Francois Baroin said the country was recommending the remainder of its 15,000 nationals living in Ivory Coast leave.

The government recommends that "all French who can leave Ivory Coast temporarily pending a normalisation of the situation," Baroin said following a cabinet meeting, describing the move as "precautionary and prudent."

The west African nation has been in the grip of political crisis since Gbagbo and his opponent Alassane Ouattara both claimed to have won a November 28 presidential election.

Gbagbo insisted again on Tuesday that he is the one true president and his besieged rivals refused once again to talk with him.

"While foreigners have not yet been threatened it seems necessary to us to renew our prudence," Baroin said, repeating advice not to travel to Ivory Coast and for French nationals in the country to exercise prudence.

Germany also recommended that its nationals leave Ivory Coast and warned others against travelling to the nation, a foreign ministry statement in Berlin said.

"We currently warn against travel to Ivory Coast. Due to the unpredictable way the situation is developing, we recommend German nationals in Ivory Coast leave the country," the ministry said.

The ministry was not immediately able to confirm how many German nationals were affected.

Sweden and Portugal also recommended that the small number of their nationals living in Ivory Coast leave the country. Seven Portuguese citizens and 24 Swedish citizens were recorded as living in Ivory Coast, the two countries' foreign ministries said.

Several other countries, including Britain and the United States, had already advised their citizens to leave.

Gbagbo has accused foreign countries of interfering in Ivory Coast's affairs and his camp has reacted angrily to pressure from world powers including former colonial ruler France for him to step aside for his rival Ouattara.

Much of the international community recognises Ouattara as president of the west African country after UN-certified results from last month's election indicated he won. Gbagbo's allies quashed the results, alleging irregularities.


© 2010 AFP

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