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Gbagbo Plane Grounded in Switzerland


Laurent Gbagbo waves after being formally sworn-in as Ivorian president during a ceremony in Abidjan, 04 Dec 2010

Laurent Gbagbo waves after being formally sworn-in as Ivorian president during a ceremony in Abidjan, 04 Dec 2010

A plane belonging to the embattled president of Ivory Coast has been grounded at an airport in Switzerland.

A French foreign ministry spokesman, Bernard Valero, told reporters on Sunday that an official aircraft of President Laurent Gbagbo was blocked at the Basel-Mulhouse airport, which is jointly administered by French and Swiss authorities. Mr. Gbagbo was not on board the plane.

The spokesman said "the legitimate authorities" of Ivory Coast asked that the plane be grounded and, in his words, "that it is precisely what we have done."

He was referring to the rival Ivorian government under Alassane Ouattara, who has been recognized by the international community as the winner of the country's November run-off election.

A high-level delegation from the West African regional bloc ECOWAS is traveling to Abidjan Tuesday in an ongoing effort to get Mr. Gbagbo to step down. ECOWAS is threatening to use force to get Mr. Gbagbo to accept the election results.

The delegation is comprised of the presidents of Benin, Sierra Leone and Cape Verde. It is to offer Mr. Gbagbo political asylum in exchange for his resignation.

There is increasing concern that the standoff could plunge Ivory Coast back into civil war.

Ivory Coast, once the economic hub of West Africa, was devastated by a civil war in 2002 and 2003.

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