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Gbagbo Govt Tells UN Forces and France to Leave Ivory Coast

REUTERS – The government of Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo has told the United Nations and French peacekeeping missions to leave the country, escalating a dispute over last month’s elections.

“The government demands the departure of the UNOCI and LICORNE forces in Ivory Coast and is

opposed to any renewal of their mandate,” said spokeswoman Jacqueline Oble, reading a statement over state television.

“UNOCI has interfered seriously in the internal affairs of Ivory Coast,” she said.

The West African country has been in turmoil since a Nov. 28 election in which Gbagbo claimed victory with backing from the nation’s top legal body, rejecting as fraudulent results showing he lost to rival Alassane Ouattara.

The United Nations, which has 10,000 soldiers and police in the country following its 2002-3 civil war, and former colonial power France, whose LICORNE force supports the U.N. mission there, have urged Gbagbo to accept defeat.

The dispute turned violent last week as pro-Ouattara marchers clashed with security forces, leaving at least 20 people dead on Thursday. Former rebels supporting Outtara also exchanged fire with the army in Abidjan and in Tiebissou in central Ivory Coast.

The United States, France and the European Union have threatened sanctions against Gbagbo, his inner circle and their families if he does not stand down within days.

A top U.S. State Department official told Reuters on Friday that Gbagbo had been offered exile in an African country, but a Gbagbo spokesman later said Gbagbo would not leave.

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