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Ivory Coast Diplomat Warns Crisis Threatens to Bring Genocide


Supporters of Ivory Coast's internationally recognized leader Alassane Ouattara demonstrate at the Golf Hotel in Abidjan, 28 Dec 2010

Supporters of Ivory Coast's internationally recognized leader Alassane Ouattara demonstrate at the Golf Hotel in Abidjan, 28 Dec 2010

Ivory Coast's new U.N. ambassador said Wednesday the ongoing dispute over who won last month's presidential election is pushing his country to the brink of genocide.

Youssofou Bamba made his comments in New York after presenting his credentials to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. Mr. Bamba was appointed by Alassane Ouattara, who the United Nations and the international community recognize as Ivory's Coast's president.

Both Mr. Ouattara and incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo say they won the November 28 presidential runoff.

Meanwhile, Mr. Gbagbo's minister of youth and employment has urged supporters to seize the Abidjan hotel where Mr. Ouattara has set up his headquarters under U.N. protection. Charles Ble Goude said supporters will "liberate" the Golf Hotel on January 1.

Mr. Gbagbo has refused to step down, and the United Nations says the power struggle has killed more than 170 people.

Also Wednesday, West African leaders said they have decided against military intervention for now, as envoys from the regional bloc ECOWAS plan further talks with Mr. Gbagbo.

The presidents of Benin, Cape Verde and Sierra Leone said they will return to Ivory Coast next week to press Mr. Gbagbo to accept the election results. The group held a first round of talks on Tuesday, but the meeting was inconclusive.

The United States said Wednesday it is planning for the possible evacuation of its embassy in Abidjan in the case that violence in the country escalates.

The United Nations' chief peacekeeper, Alain Le Roy, accused Ivory Coast's state media of inciting hatred against U.N. troops. The United Nations says one peacekeeper was attacked with a machete on Tuesday by supporters of Mr. Gbagbo.

In another development, the European Union says it has increased the number of Mr. Gbagbo's allies that it will place travel restrictions on to 61. They include members of Mr. Gbagbo's government and other officials. The EU currently bans Mr. Gbagbo, his wife and 17 others.

On Tuesday, Mr. Gbagbo's government said it will sever ties with countries that recognize envoys named by Mr. Ouattara. It also said it will expel ambassadors from countries that cut ties with Gbagbo appointees.

Mr. Gbagbo has been in power for more than 10 years. The presidential election was intended to stabilize Ivory Coast eight years after a civil war divided the country.

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