Defiant Gbagbo appoints cabinet as UN begins withdrawal
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Despite international calls for Laurent Gbagbo to cede power in Ivory Coast, the incumbent president named a cabinet Tuesday which included a man once sanctioned for inciting violence. The UN is pulling hundreds of staff from the country.
International pressure on Ivory Coast’s incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo to cede power to challenger Alassane Ouattara is mounting amid growing unrest in the country.
But in a show of defiance, Gbagbo named his cabinet Tuesday and tapped a controversial figure as one of his ministers.
Gbagbo named Charles Ble Goude as minister of youth, professional education and employment. The United Nations and the United States sanctioned Goude in 2006 for publicly advocating violence against foreigners and UN personnel.
The United Nations said it was pulling hundreds of staff out of the country due to the explosive situation. At least 20 people have been killed in election-related violence, according to Amnesty International, amid a tense deadlock between the two rivals.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon "remains deeply concerned" and "has been in close contact with many world leaders," spokesman Farhan Haq said.
Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama urged Gbagbo to leave the presidency to the "legitimate winner" of the polls in a letter late last week, a senior US official told French news agency AFP.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said Obama asked Gbagbo to “abide by the results of this election and step aside” or otherwise “face greater international isolation” and “bear the consequences of what is an unjust action."
The European Union added its voice to the growing chorus of international disapproval, threatening sanctions if the crisis is not resolved fast.
Critical West African summit
West African leaders are to meet in a special summit on Ivory Coast's electoral crisis on Tuesday under pressure to help find an exit to the country's political standoff as fears of continued violence intensify.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) suspended Ivory Coast's membership on Tuesday, and called Gbagbo to step down immediately. Ivory Coast leaders had already been uninvited to the summit of the 15-member ECOWAS in Nigeria that started today.
The summit comes at a crucial time, following a weekend in which both Gbagbo and Ouattara swore themselves in as president of the West African state -- each naming a prime minister – and former South African president Thabo Mbeki ended mediation talks without any major announcement.