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Nigeria Wants UN Backing for Military Intervention in Ivory Coast


Incumbent Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo (file photo)

Incumbent Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo (file photo)

Nigeria wants United Nations backing for a regional intervention force to remove Ivory Coast's incumbent president in favor of the internationally-recognized winner of November's vote.

Nigerian Foreign Minister Odein Ajumogobia says the threat by West African leaders to use force to remove incumbent Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo needs "unequivocal international support" from the U.N. Security Council.

In a column in Nigeria's This Day newspaper, Ajumogobia said it is clear that Mr. Gbagbo is determined to defy the international community and treat its opinions with disdain. He said the Ivorian president must not be allowed to prevail.

The Economic Community of West African States, the European Union, the United Nations, the African Union and the United States recognize former prime minister Alassane Ouattara as the rightful winner of Ivory Coast's presidential election.

But Mr. Gbagbo is refusing to yield power because he says he was reelected when the constitutional counsel, which is staffed by many of his allies, annulled enough of Mr. Ouattara's votes to make him the winner.

Mr. Gbagbo's spokesman says the threat of a regional military force is part of an elaborate bluff because West African leaders have no legal standing to raise such a force against Mr. Gbagbo's government.

Salamatu Suleiman is a Nigerian State Minister for Foreign Affairs. She says Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan's threat of force as head of the regional ECOWAS alliance is not a bluff. Suleiman says regional leaders are well aware that Mr. Gbagbo is stalling for time.

"Mr. President, as chairman of ECOWAS, and indeed the entire ECOWAS are firmly on top of that," said Suleiman. "They are aware of Gbagbo's tactics. They have given him the leeway, sent many, many diplomatic missions to speak with him, and, if that fails, the option of military force is not ruled out."

In his newspaper column, foreign minister Ajumogobia said Mr. Gbagbo "must be made to understand that there is a very real prospect of overwhelming military capability bearing down on him and his cohorts." Ajumogobia said that force could include a naval blockade to enforce international sanctions.

The Nigerian foreign minister said it is unfortunate that Russia and Ghana have come out against military action because, he said, the impunity that Mr. Gbagbo seeks is a challenge to the international community.

Ajumogobia said the political crisis in Ivory Coast is likely to disrupt democracy and create a dangerous precedent in Africa, where 20 presidential elections are scheduled during the next 18 months.

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