Ivory Coast’s presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara's prime minister called on the international community to use force to oust incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo from power in an interview with FRANCE 24 Wednesday.
Guillaume Soro, a former rebel leader and Ouattara’s chosen prime minister, told FRANCE 24 he was sceptical of international sanctions and maintained that “force was the only solution”.
Soro’s comments came hours after France joined a list of countries urging their citizens to leave the West African nation as violence following the disputed Nov. 28 presidential run-off has mounted.
Both Gbagbo and Ouattara claim they won the poll and have sworn in respective cabinets. While the international community has recognised Ouattara as the rightful winner and called on Gbagbo to cede power, the incumbent Ivorian president has refused to give up the presidency.
In a phone interview with FRANCE 24 Wednesday from the main Ivorian city of Abidjan, Soro once again called for Gbagbo to step down.
“Laurent Gbagbo is no longer the president. He was defeated,” said Soro. “We continue to call on him to cede power. For the moment, I have asked the UN Security Council, the European Union, the African Union and (West African regional grouping) ECOWAS to contemplate the option of using military force to remove Laurent Gbagbo from power.”
Soro served as prime minister under Gbagbo from 2007 until he resigned from the post following the disputed Nov. 28 presidential run-off, after which he was promptly sworn in as Ouattara’s prime minister. A former leader of the New Forces rebel group, Soro took up the prime ministerial post in 2007 under the terms of a peace deal between Gbagbo’s government and the northern rebels.
France tells nationals to quit Ivory Coast - 'temporarily'
"We ask those who can to leave Ivory Coast temporarily until the situation normalises," French government spokesman Francois Baroin told reporters in Paris Wednesday.
There are currently about 13,000 French nationals in the former French colony.
At least 50 people have been killed in post-election violence since the run-off vote, according to the UN. However, Ouattara supporters say the death toll is much higher and accuse armed groups loyal to Gbagbo of targeting them in Abidjan.
Meanwhile, World Bank head Robert Zoellick said funds for Ivory Coast had been frozen. Ivory Coast had secured $465 million under a 2009-2013 World Bank programme.
"They have already been frozen," Zoellick told reporters in Paris following a Wednesday meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
On Tuesday, the US State Department authorised a travel ban against Gbagbo’s administration. The European Union had earlier issued a travel ban on Gbagbo and his close supporters.
Gbagbo calls for international review of electoral crisis
Despite the increased international pressure on his administration, Gbagbo has remained defiant.
In his first televised speech
since the disputed Nov. 28 presidential run-off, Gbagbo called for an international panel to review the post-election power struggle over the presidency in a Tuesday night address to the nation.