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Ivory Coast Incumbent President Rejects Call for More UN Peacekeepers

Laurent Gbagbo (Dec 2010 file photo)

Laurent Gbagbo (Dec 2010 file photo)

The government of Ivory Coast's incumbent president is rejecting calls for more U.N. peacekeepers, saying the entire force should leave the country because it is violating its neutrality.

The head of U.N. peacekeeping wants as many as 2,000 additional troops in Ivory Coast in the next few weeks to help resolve this political crisis.

But incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo says all of the nearly 10,000 U.N. peacekeepers who are in the country must leave because they have lost the confidence of civilians and are interfering in Ivory Coast's internal affairs.

Alcide Djedje is Gbagbo's foreign minister.

Djedje says the United Nations mission in Ivory Coast has deviated from its original role and is now acting in complicity with rebels. Djedje says the Gbagbo government can not accept that and no longer trusts U.N. peacekeepers, so they must leave.

Some of those peacekeepers are guarding an Abidjan resort hotel that Alassane Ouattara has not left since Ivory Coast's electoral commission declared him the winner of November's presidential election. Former rebels who back Ouattara are also at the hotel, which Djedje says is a threat to security.

Djedje says the military can not tolerate the presence of 300 heavily-armed combatants at a hotel so close to Gbagbo's residence. He says the blockade of that hotel is a security measure that will be lifted if the former rebels return to positions they control in the north.

Gbagbo agreed to ease that blockade and take part in further negotiations without preconditions following talks with West African heads of state. But the regional alliance says that pledge does not diminish its threat to use force to remove Gbagbo if he continues to refuse to yield power to Ouattara.

James Gbeho is the president of the regional ECOWAS alliance.

"If there is no joy in exploiting the peaceful situation, then the military objective can also be considered as a tool for a sustainable resolution of the crisis in Cote d'Ivoire," Gbeho said.

Gbeho says West African leaders understand the dangers of mounting such a force as Gbagbo controls the national army.

But Outarra told French television that regional military intervention would not lead to a return to civil war, and he believes West African leaders will use every means, including legitimate force, to remove Gbagbo.

Gbagbo Youth Minister Charles Ble Goude told a rally in Abidjan that Ouattara is mistaken in he believes foreign troops are coming to Ivory Coast to make him president.

Goude says no army, no matter how powerful, can come to Ivory Coast to remove Laurent Gbagbo and install Ouattara as president. Not in Abidjan, he says, Gbagbo supporters will never accept that.