Ivory Coast's incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo has ordered his government to seize control of the sale and export of all cocoa, a market that until now has been largely dominated by multinational companies.
AFP - Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo on Monday ordered his government to take control over the country's key cocoa sector, so far dominated by multinational companies.
"The purchase of coffee and cocoa from producers and groups of producers will be undertaken exclusively by the state throughout" Ivory Coast, said a decree read out on public television.
Ivory Coast is the world's leading cocoa producer, accounting for 40 percent of global supplies valued at $4.5 billion (3.3 billion euros) a year at current prices, according to London's Financial Times.
Alassane Ouattara, internationally recognised as the winner of Ivory Coast's disputed presidential election in November, has banned cocoa exports until March 15 as part of a bid to pressure Gbagbo to relinquish power.
Meanwhile fighting flared again in Ivory Coast's main city of Abidjan, with three killed and houses set alight, as battles in the west sent scores fleeing their homes, officials and residents said.
The victims were residents of a pro-Gbagbo enclave in Abobo, a Ouattara stronghold.
A statement from Gbagbo's interior ministry said: "This criminal attack unfortunately left three dead, 30 injured, many people displaced, of whom 700 have been given shelter in the courtyard of the Catholic church, and several houses burnt down."
The ministry slammed what it called "a barbaric assault by rebels on civilians" and "the lack of respect for human life" by the pro-Ouattara coalition and its armed wing.
Inhabitants of Anokoua Koute told AFP that the offensive began at 3:00 am (0300 GMT) with rocket launchers and Kalashnikovs.
They said several people were missing.
"Among the victims were people with their throats cut," one inhabitant said.
Local people fleeing Anokoua Koute told AFP that the assailants wore black uniforms and spoke Dioula, a language from the north of the country.
Since 2002 the north has been under the control of ex-rebel New Forces (FN), now allied to Ouattara.
One villager said its inhabitants had appealed in vain to Gbagbo's Defence and Security Forces (FDS) for help.
Abobo became a battleground mid-February with 26 killed in one week and clashes forcing 200,000 people to leave their homes, according to figures from the UN peacekeeping mission.
The clashes have been between security forces loyal to Gbagbo and fighters whose allegiance is unclear; they claim to be fighting independently and Ouattara's camp denies involvement.
Ouattara has said he was ready to attend but Gbagbo has not yet commented.
Newspapers owned by Gbagbo said Monday the invitation was a "trap" aimed at getting him out of the country.
Date created : 2011-03-07