News / Africa

Ivory Coast Soldiers Block Ouattara Headquarters

Tension is escalating in Ivory Coast, where troops loyal to leader Laurent Gbagbo blocked roads to the hotel housing his rival for the presidency, Alassane Ouattara.

Soldiers set up the roadblocks a few hundred meters from Abidjan's Golf Hotel on Monday. They barred access to the area around Mr. Ouattara's headquarters for most of the day before finally letting traffic through.

Ouattara spokesmen say the soldiers tried to set up a checkpoint closer to the hotel, but were stopped by former rebels who are protecting the hotel along with U.N. peacekeepers.

Mr. Gbagbo and Mr. Ouattara both claim victory in the recent presidential election and have set up rival governments. The international community recognizes Mr. Ouattara as the election winner. But Mr. Gbagbo continues to control the army and state institutions.

In Brussels Monday, European Union foreign ministers agreed to impose financial and travel sanctions on Mr. Gbagbo and his close allies unless he leaves office.

Mr. Ouattara's would-be prime minister, Guillaume Soro, said he and his supporters will take charge of government buildings later this week.

Mr. Soro said he will take over state television on Thursday, and that his cabinet will meet in the official prime minister's office on Friday.  There was no immediate response from Mr. Gbagbo.

The power struggle has led to fears of renewed conflict in Ivory Coast, although officials on both sides have said they want to avoid war.

Ivory Coast is still recovering from a 2002 civil war that left it divided into rebel- and government-controlled territories.  The presidential election was meant to restore stability to the West African country.

Mr. Gbagbo has ruled Ivory Coast since 2000.  His term officially ended in 2005, but he remained in office as elections were repeatedly postponed.

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