January 14, 2011 / 2:53 PM / in 7 years

Ouattara complains of cash leaving Ivorian central bank

* Money leaving Ivorian account at central bank-Ouattara

* Flows risk undermining effort to freeze out Gbagbo

DAKAR, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Ivorian presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara complained on Friday of “daily” withdrawals from the country’s account at the regional central bank despite international efforts to freeze out his rival Laurent Gbagbo.

West Africa’s central bank last month noted world-wide recognition of Ouattara as Ivory Coast’s legitimate president and said only appointed members of the “legitimate government” could access funds held with it by the top cocoa grower.

Although it fell short of openly recognising Ouattara as president, the decision was seen as a key step in pressuring Gbagbo to cede power in a power struggle after a Nov. 28 election left both men claiming to have won.

“We have the figures, daily withdrawals from Ivory Coast’s account,” Toikeusse Mabri, Ouattara’s minister for planning and development, told reporters after meeting the governor of the bank at its headquarters in Dakar.

Mabri said he would give details of the amounts withdrawn later in the day but Ivory Coast’s reserves at the bank, known as the BCEAO, are around $3 billion.

Mabri added that employees at the bank, which is headed by an Ivorian seen as an ally of Gbabgo‘s, were being intimidated by security forces deployed at their offices.

“It seems that the employees at the BCEAO in Abidjan are doing it under pressure,” he added.

Gbagbo’s camp was not immediately available for comment. The bank was not immediately available for comment either.

Mabri praised BCEAO’s official invitation to Ouattara-nominated officials to take part in the bank’s regular meetings, a move that will boost recognition for Ouattara.

Ouattara has been recognised by world leaders and regional bodies as president after election commission results said he won. But a legal body headed by a Gbagbo ally reversed the result, citing fraud, and he has refused to step down.

West African regional body ECOWAS has threatened to use force to topple Gbagbo but there is little political or logistical readiness to do so. Hopes are pinned on economic sanctions though these will take time to kick in. [ID:nLDE70B2CM] (Reporting by Diadie Ba; writing by David Lewis)

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