PARIS (Reuters) - A minister loyal to Ivory Coast’s Laurent Gbagbo accused Western powers on Tuesday of undermining the country’s institutions and urged them to stop threatening sanctions.
Gbagbo is locked in a power struggle with Alassane Ouattara, with both claiming victory in a November 28 presidential election that was meant to reunite the world’s top cocoa grower after a 2002-3 civil war but which has instead deepened divisions.
In an emailed statement to Reuters, Gbago’s foreign minister, Alcide Djedje, said:
“France, the United States, the U.N. and European Union must not wave the red flag of sanctions at Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo, who is the victim of an international plot woven by an unlucky (election) candidate backed diplomatically, financially and militarily by his Western sponsors.”
European Union foreign ministers agreed on Monday to impose sanctions on Ivory Coast, adding pressure on Gbagbo to give up power, and Washington has also threatened to take measures against Gbagbo.
The EU move is set to target Gbagbo and his supporters with asset freezes and a visa ban, after he claimed victory in the November 28 vote over Ouattara, despite Ouattara being declared the winner by the Ivory Coast election commission.
The pro-Gbagbo Constitution Council, the highest legal body on elections, reversed that decision by cancelling hundreds of thousands of votes in Ouattara strongholds on the grounds of alleged fraud by northern rebels.
World leaders and regional bodies have recognised Ouattara as president, and the African Union has suspended Ivory Coast’s membership until Gbagbo quits.
However, Gbagbo retains control of the armed forces and has rejected criticism as foreign meddling.
He has been in power since winning a disputed election in 2000, when thousands of his supporters took to the streets to help oust military coup leader General Robert Guei, who was accused of trying to rig the vote.
Reporting by Gerard Bon; Writing by Brian Love