Civil war brewing in Ivory Coast

France has urged its nationals in
Ivory Coast to leave, as a crisis over a disputed presidential poll continues.

The measure was “precautionary”,
it said. There are about 15,000 French citizens in the West African country.

The UN says civil war could erupt
because incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo is refusing to admit defeat to opposition
leader Alassane Ouattara, and is demanding UN peacekeepers leave.

Meanwhile, the World Bank said it
had frozen its loans to Ivory Coast.

After a meeting in Paris with
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, World Bank chief Robert Zoellick confirmed
that the institution had stopped lending and disbursing funds, and that its
office in Abidjan had closed.

“The World Bank and the
African Development Bank have supported [West African bloc] Ecowas and the
African Union, in sending the message to President Gbagbo that he has lost the
election and needs to step down,” a statement on the bank’s website said.

“A peaceful and rapid
resolution is critical both for the people of [Ivory Coast] and the region as a
whole.”

Mr Ouattara has also appealed to
the West African Central Bank (BCEAO) to cut off Mr Gbagbo’s access to Ivory
Coast’s deposits, making it impossible for him to pay civil servants and soldiers.

Mr Gbagbo says the vote on 28
November, meant to unify a country split by war in 2002, was rigged in rebel
areas that backed Mr Ouattara.

The country’s Independent Electoral
Commission ruled that Mr Ouattara had won, a decision later certified by the
UN. The Constitutional Council said Mr Gbagbo had been elected, citing vote
rigging in some areas.

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