In interviews with two leading French newspapers, Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo accused France and the United States of plotting to remove him. The accusation comes as supporters of Ivory Coast presidential contender Alassane Ouattara on Monday peacefully took control of their country's Paris embassy after loyalists of Gbagbo departed.
Gbagbo laid out his latest accusations against France – and the United States – in interviews published Monday in France's Le Monde and Le Figaro newspapers. He said Paris and Washington had pressured the United Nations, the African Union and West African leaders to throw their weight behind rival Alassane Ouattara, who is widely considered the winner of Ivory Coast's disputed presidential election.
The incumbent president said he would make his case to West African leaders who are due to meet with him on Tuesday.
But Ouattara's spokesman Patrick Achi refuted Gbago's accusations in an interview with France-Inter radio.
Achi said it is African nations that have been calling on Gbagbo to step down and are the ones threatening force if he does not do so. He said this is not a question of a demand by the United States and France.
Gbagbo's comments are certain to further strain an already tense relationship between his government and former colonial power France. They come as the Ivorian leader faces increasing international pressure to step down. On Sunday, Paris announced it had grounded a plane belonging to Gbagbo at a French airport at Ouattara's demand. The European Union and United States have also announced sanctions against Gbagbo and his entourage.
On Monday, French Defense Minister Alain Juppe suggested Paris would be open to new sanctions against the Gbagbo regime if the standoff continues. Separately, the French foreign ministry announced that Ouattara would shortly be appointing a new ambassador to France.