Ivory Coast soccer idol Drogba calls for unity
* Says country needs international funding
* Takes no side in calling for restraint
PARIS, Dec 23 (Reuters) - Ivory Coast soccer captain Didier Drogba appealed to all parties within and outside his country to show restraint in a standoff over last month's presidential election, in remarks published on Thursday.
"I ask each of you, every manager, every soldier, every supporter, not to turn to violence and to make every effort to restore the calm and responsible democracy that our nation is waiting for," Drogba, spokesman for the national soccer team, was quoted as saying in a statement in French daily Le Figaro.
Drogba urged the international community to be measured in its response to the dispute, saying Ivorians would suffer if the country is deprived of funding from international lenders like the IMF.
The World Bank said on Wednesday it had frozen funding to Ivory Coast as incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo resists mounting international pressure to relinquish his post.
World powers and African states have backed rival presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara, and fears are growing that the standoff could tip the West African country back into civil war. The 2002-3 conflict split Ivory Coast in two.
Drogba, who also plays for English Premier League champions Chelsea and is a UNDP goodwill ambassador, is an idol in Ivory Coast, embodying a dream of a route to glamour, wealth and fame. Continued...