Ghana neutral on Ivory Coast, opposes force - president

Fri Jan 7, 2011 8:59pm GMT

By Tim Cocks and Kwasi Kpodo

ABIDJAN/ACCRA (Reuters) - The president of Ghana said on Friday his country would not take sides in neighbouring Ivory Coast's power struggle and that force would not resolve it, exposing a rift in the region about how to deal with the crisis.

Presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara's camp said it was not worried by divisions among West African leaders over the use of force to oust Laurent Gbagbo, because there are other "military options" that could oust him, a spokesman said.

Gbagbo's camp called Ghana's decision wise.

World leaders have recognised Ouattara as winner of a November 28 election and the West African regional bloc ECOWAS has threatened to remove Gbagbo by force. Gbagbo has so far dismissed threats, and any military effort would be daunting.

"Ghana is not taking sides, and Ghana will support any government," President John Atta Mills said in a speech on Friday. "I personally do not think the military option will solve the problem in Ivory Coast."

Mills said military planners had told him Ghana's forces were over-stretched and that in taking the decision not to contribute troops to an ECOWAS intervention force, he had considered the safety of Ghanaian expatriates.

"I'm not surprised by their position," Ouattara spokesman Patrick Achi said by phone. "There's a close relationship between them. At first people felt like this would be easy then, as time goes by, some feel like they owe something to the guy."

Ivory Coast, the world's biggest cocoa grower, has attracted millions of people from neighbours seeking work and analysts say they would be vulnerable to retaliation by Gbagbo supporters.   Continued...

<p>Ivory Coast's presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara (R) addresses a news conference at the Golf hotel, his headquarters in Abidjan, January 6, 2011. REUTERS/ Thierry Gouegnon</p>
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