EU freezes assets over Ivory Coast stalemate
THE European Union increased the pressure on Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo to step down yesterday by freezing assets of the West African nation's cocoa-exporting ports, state oil firm and three banks.
It is the latest move in international efforts to persuade Gbagbo to quit after an election he is widely held to have lost. The EU sanctions list included the country's rubber sector body, its power company and national broadcaster.
Gbagbo's camp brushed off the tighter sanctions and said he still had access to accounts at West Africa's central bank, even though regional leaders recognise his election rival, Alassane Ouattara, as the legitimate president of the world's top cocoa grower.
"Westerners often make this mistake. The world does not stop at Europe, it does not stop at America," Gbagbo's government spokesman, Ahoua Don Mello, said. "Africa has evolved. We can dispense with France, we can go elsewhere," he added, referring to Ivory Coast's former colonial ruler.
The United Nations human rights office said at least 247 people have been killed in violence in Ivory Coast since the disputed presidential election on 28 November, clashes that risk sending the country back into civil war.
The EU's Official Journal said the firms and utilities are "helping to fund the illegitimate government" of Gbagbo.
The EU first imposed sanctions on Gbagbo and his backers in December after the election that world powers and African neighbours ruled Ouattara won. Gbagbo cites a Constitutional Council ruling that the results were rigged against him.
Broadcaster RTI was guilty of "public incitement to hatred and violence through participation in disinformation campaigns in connection with the 2010 presidential election", the EU journal said.
"All funds and economic resources belonging to, owned, held or controlled by the natural or legal persons, entities and bodies… shall be frozen," the journal said. The measures also ban funds being made available to listed people and agencies.
They also maintain an asset freeze and visa ban on Gbagbo and 84 of his supporters, including Gbagbo's wife, ministers, army chiefs and security staff.
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