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Canada, Britain Reject Order to Remove Ivory Coast Ambassadors

Alasssane Ouattara (file photo)
Alasssane Ouattara (file photo)

Canada and Britain are rejecting the expulsion of their ambassadors by Ivory Coast's incumbent president, saying they recognize only the authority of his rival, the internationally-recognized winner of the country's presidential election.

Incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo's government says Canadian ambassador Marie Isabelle Massip and United Kingdom ambassador Nicholas James Westcott are no longer welcome in Ivory Coast.

In a proclamation read on state-run television, Gbagbo spokesman Ahoua Don Mello said the foreign minister rescinds their accreditation in accordance with principles of reciprocity concerning diplomatic relations as the Canadian and British governments no longer recognize Gbagbo emissaries.

But because those governments do not recognize Mr. Gbagbo's authority, they do not recognize his expulsion orders either.

London's Foreign Office says the British government does not accept the validity of statements made by anyone other than the winner of November's vote, former prime minister Alassane Ouattara.

Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon says Ottawa does not recognize Mr. Gbagbo's claim to government, and as such, his request that Ambassador Massip leave is illegitimate.

Mr. Ouattara's government agrees the expulsion orders are without merit.

"The decision of Mr. Gbagbo is useless since he is not the official government," said Jean-Marie Kacou Gervais, Mr. Ouattara's foreign minister. He said that Mr. Ouattara appreciates the stand taken by London and Ottawa.

"The Canadian ambassador and the United Kingdom ambassador are most welcome in this country," he added. "We, as the official government, we did not issue any decision to those friendly countries, so they are most welcome and we are happy that they have reacted over the issue of the government of Mr. Gbagbo, the false government, to stay."

The diplomatic standoff threatens to further isolate Mr. Gbagbo after the United States froze his assets and banned U.S. citizens from doing business with him or his associates.

Gbagbo advisor Yao Gnamien says the Obama administration is mistaken if it believes this will help solve the crisis.

"This decision can not help the Ivorians solve their problems," said Gnamien. "It is not fair. Why? It is just a controversy born after an election. Only an election. A political crisis. We have seen those crises all over the world. The United States did not take this kind of decision. What were their decisions when this kind of controversy happened in Togo for instance, in Gabon, even in China?"

Ouattara foreign minister Gervais says Washington's move against Mr. Gbagbo and his faimly is long overdue.

"This family and his people are violating the human rights and doing things that are not on the international standard today," said Gervais. "This move is quite welcome in this country. If all countries take the same step, I think Mr. Gbagbo will listen to the world."

The European Union, the United States, and the African Union are all calling on Mr. Gbagbo to yield power to Mr. Ouattara. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has led West African threats of regional military force to drive Mr. Gbagbo from office if he does not leave.

But the unanimity of that regional stand was weakened Friday when Ghana's President John Atta Mills said his country will not take sides in the crisis and does not believe military force will solve the problem.

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