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ECOWAS Recognizes Ouattara as Ivorian President

Incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo, center, during a photo opportunity with his newly-named cabinet, with Prime Minister N'Gbo Gilbert Marie Ake, front left, at the presidency in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Dec 7, 2010

A bloc of West African countries has recognized Alassane Ouattara as Ivory Coast's new president, and is calling on incumbent Laurent Gbagbo to step aside immediately. The Economic Community of West African States issued a statement after a meeting Tuesday of seven regional heads of state in Nigeria.

The statement called on Mr. Gbagbo to abide by the results of November's second-round presidential election, as certified by the United Nations. It said he should "yield power without delay in the best interest of the Ivorian people."

ECOWAS also said it is suspending Ivory Coast from all of the bloc's activities.

Mr. Gbagbo maintains that he won the November election and has named a new prime minister, who presented a new cabinet to reporters Tuesday in Abidjan. Mr. Ouattara also has claimed victory, raising fears of renewed conflict in Ivory Coast.

The presidential election was meant to bring stability to the country, where a 2002 civil war split the country into a rebel-controlled north and government-run south.

United Nations agencies began pulling foreign staffers out of the country on Tuesday. On Monday, the U.N. said it would relocate about 460 staff to Gambia and Senegal because of fears of violence.

Several international bodies besides ECOWAS, including the United Nations and African Union, have said that Mr. Ouattara won the runoff election, and called on Mr. Gbagbo to give up power.

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