Ivory Coast's internationally-backed presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara has urged African countries to use special forces to remove the country's incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo and avert a full-scale conflict.
AFP - Ivory Coast's internationally recognised president called Thursday for a bloodless raid by west African special forces to snatch defiant strongman Laurent Gbagbo and "take him elsewhere" amid fears of civil war.
Alassane Ouattara's call came after regional bloc ECOWAS said it was prepared to use military force as a last resort to oust Gbagbo who retains control of the army and continues to defy international calls to step down.
"If he persists, it's up to ECOWAS to take the necessary measures and those measures can include legitimate force," Ouattara told journalists at the Abidjan hotel where he has for weeks been besieged by Gbagbo forces.
Exclusive FRANCE 24 interview
"Legitimate force doesn't mean a force against Ivorians," he said, with the crisis threatening to plunge the west African nation back into civil war.
"It's a force to remove Laurent Gbagbo and that's been done elsewhere, in Africa and in Latin America, there are non-violent special operations which allow simply to take the unwanted person and take him elsewhere."
"Laurent Gbagbo will leave before the end of January," Ouattara said.
"I have a series of measures underway that will make him fall like a fruit, not a ripe one, but like a rotten fruit," he said.
The latest bid by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union to mediate an end to the crisis that has seen at least 200 people killed since the disputed November 28 election floundered on Tuesday.
West African military chiefs have set in motion plans to oust Gbagbo if negotiations fail, with another crisis mediation mission to be decided soon.
Ouattara has accused Gbagbo of masterminding a campaign of rape and murder against his supporters, while the United Nations mission in the country said Thursday that the death toll from the crisis continues to rise.
ICC chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, has vowed to prosecute any political crimes carried out in the wake of the disputed poll.
UN rights experts said last week they feared reports of widespread post-election violence in the Ivory Coast amounted to crimes against humanity, but that it had been prevented from fully investigating alleged atrocities.
Ouattara is the internationally acknowledged victor of the November 28 presidential election which was supposed to end a decade of unrest which has split the country between north and south.
Ivory Coast's Independent Electoral Commission as well as the United Nations declared Ouattara the winner of the November 28 run-off poll, while the Constitutional Council said that Gbagbo won.
Both men have been sworn in as president and Gbagbo claims there is an international plot to oust him after more than a decade in power.
Gbagbo's refusal to bow to international pressure has sent over 22,000 Ivorians fleeing the country amid fears of the return of civil war.
Ouattara's hotel has been protected by around 800 UN peacekeepers as well as the ex-rebel New Forces allied with his camp since troops shot dead several of his supporters as they marched on state television on December 16.
Gbagbo has demanded the former rebels go back to their northern powerbase before he will lift the siege, which his foreign minister says is there to protect Gbagbo himself and foreign diplomatic missions in the area.
With so many UN troops tied up protecting Ouattara, peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy said in New York that he would seek an extra 1,000 to 2,000 reinforcements for the over 9,500-strong mission in coming days.
Gbagbo has turned down offers of exile and amnesty for him and his camp in different countries, insisting he is the rightful president of the cocoa-rich nation.
Date created : 2011-01-06