Fears over Ivory Coast 'civil war'

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UN forces patrol outside the UN headquarters in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, after the disputed election (AP)

A leading opponent of Ivory Coast’s president has called for an international military operation to force him from office as the country threatens to slide into civil war.

Laurent Gbagbo has refused to step down after a disputed election which he is accused of rigging, despite the UN and world leaders recognising Alassane Ouattara as the winner of the November 28 run-off vote.

His prime minister, Guillaume Soro, urged the UN, European Union, African Union and others to consider intervening to push Mr Gbagbo out.

“It is obvious that there is one solution left – that of force,” Mr Soro said.

He added that “200 people have so far been killed by the bullets of Liberian and Angolan mercenaries”.

France urged its citizens to get out of the former colony for their own safety.

The UN said that at least 50 people have been killed.

But there appears to be little international interest in a military intervention. The United States and the EU are imposing sanctions targeting Mr Gbagbo, his wife and political allies.

Hundreds of UN peacekeepers have been protecting the hotel where Mr Ouattara is based.

Over the weekend, Mr Gbagbo ordered all UN peacekeepers out of the country immediately in an escalation of tensions. The UN is staying put, raising fears that UN personnel and other foreigners could be targeted in violence as tensions mount.

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