PARIS (Reuters) - The World Bank has frozen financing for the Ivory Coast, the bank’s president Robert Zoellick said on Wednesday, as the international community put pressure on Laurent Gbagbo to step down as president.
“They have already been frozen,” Zoellick told reporters, asked about World Bank loans to Ivory Coast, which is locked in a standoff over a contested presidential election result.
Fears are growing that the dispute between Gbagbo and rival Alassane Ouattara, internationally recognised as winner of the election, could fan worse violence between their two camps or even tip the country back into civil war.
According to the World Bank’s website, the global lender has an aid commitment to Ivory Coast of $842 million, made up of 21 financing projects or support programmes, as of January 2010.
At that date the Bank had also forgiven 55 percent of Ivory Coast’s debt, and Zoellick warned then that future debt relief hinged on the country holding long-delayed elections aimed at ending a political stalemate in place since a 2002-03 civil war.
Zoellick — in Paris for meetings with President Nicolas Sarkozy and Economy Minister Christine Lagarde — said he had talked to Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure about getting the West African Economic and Monetary Union bloc to also freeze loans to Ivory Coast.
“They are also convening of a meeting of ministers this week to affirm and strengthen that approach,” Zoellick said.
“We at the Bank will work with the African Development Bank to follow the lead of the ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) countries because they have a huge amount at stake economically as well as democratically,” he added.
ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States, suspended Ivory Coast from the regional bloc earlier this month over its electoral dispute.