Cocoa prices leap on ICoast election chaos

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Cocoa futures hit four-month highs on Tuesday, as fears grew for the stability of top producer Ivory Coast in the wake of disputed presidential elections in the west African nation.

On LIFFE, London's futures exchange, cocoa for March jumped to 2,081 pounds (3,283 dollars, 2,456 euros) per tonne, hitting the highest level since late August.

And on the New York Board of Trade (NYBOT), cocoa for delivery in March rallied to a similar multi-month high at 3,140 dollars a tonne.

"The rather unpleasant background to this price rally is the unstable political situation in Ivory Coast, the world's main cocoa producer," said Commerbank commodities analyst Carsten Fritsch.

"After the uncertain outcome of the presidential election, there have evidently already been bloody clashes between the two camps, which is raising fears of another civil war."

UN staff began evacuating from Ivory Coast on Tuesday amid fears that a tense standoff could turn violent, as international pressure mounted for incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo to quit power.

Non-essential staff for the UN mission "have begun leaving the country," a UN official in Abidjan told AFP, without giving further details. The United Nations in New York said earlier it would relocate 460 staff from Ivory Coast.

Pressure mounted meanwhile on Gbagbo, 65, who has defied calls to end his 10 years in power after the United Nations recognised his rival Alassane Ouattara as president following an election marred by deadly clashes.

US President Barack Obama has written to Gbagbo urging him to cede power to Ouattara, a US official told AFP in Washington.

© 2010 AFP

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