World Bank cuts Ivorian financing as crisis deepens

Wed Dec 22, 2010 5:42pm GMT

By John Irish and Tim Cocks

PARIS/ABIDJAN (Reuters) - France asked its citizens to leave Ivory Coast and the World Bank froze funding to the West African state on Wednesday, as a violent power struggle deepened between incumbent Laurent Gbagbo and his rival presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara.

Gbagbo has refused to quit following a November 28 election that African countries and western powers say he lost to Ouattara, in a dispute that has already killed 50 people and threatens to restart a civil war.

A key Ouattara aide said the "only solution" to the crisis was for the international community to consider using force to oust Gbagbo.

"We ask those who can to leave Ivory Coast temporarily until the situation normalises," French government spokesman Francois Baroin told reporters in Paris. There are now about 13,000 French nationals in the former French colony.

Germany and Britain advised against travel to the country and urged their citizens there to leave, a day after Nigeria said it evacuated diplomatic staff from the country following an attack on its embassy.

World Bank head Robert Zoellick said funds for Ivory Coast had been cut off, in a move to squeeze Gbagbo financially. According to the World Bank website, the global lender has aid commitments to Ivory Coast of $842 million as of January 2010.

"They have already been frozen," Zoellick said in Paris after a meeting with President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The European Union and the United States have imposed sanctions on Gbagbo and members of his inner circle in an attempt to force him to step down, and African countries have offered him a soft landing in exile.   Continued...

<p>Ivory Coast's President Laurent Gbagbo flashes two thumbs-up during his inauguration at the presidential palace in Abidjan, December 4, 2010. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon</p>
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