Gbagbo orders peacekeepers to leave Ivory Coast

Government spokeswoman Jacqueline Oble read the demand on national television

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Incumbent Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo has demanded that all foreign peacekeepers leave the country immediately, escalating a dispute over last month's presidential election.

His spokesperson accused UN and French troops of colluding with former rebels.

The UN and major powers have recognised Mr Gbagbo's rival, Alassane Ouattara, as the winner of the 28 November poll. Mr Gbagbo insists he has won.

Mr Ouattara is currently under UN protection at a hotel in Abidjan.

In a statement read on national television on Saturday, government spokeswoman Jacqueline Oble said Mr Gbagbo had "requested the immediate departure of the Onuci [UN mission] and the French forces supporting it".

The UN force, the statement added, had "interfered seriously in the internal affairs of Ivory Coast".

Earlier, the UN said one of its patrols had come under fire as it entered the mission compound in Abidjan, the country's main city.

Sanction threat

Early on Friday, opposition supporters were arrested in Grand Bassam, about 30km (20 miles) east of Abidjan, and there are reports of several people being killed there.

Analysis

By John James, BBC News, Abidjan

Ever since the United Nations mission chose to certify the decision of the Independent Electoral Commission giving victory to the opposition, they have been targeted by attacks on state television.

Now they have been ordered to leave in an official communique that says they were destablising the country and accused them of taking the side of the opposition and the ex-rebel movement.

On Friday night a standard UN patrol was followed by armed men, who opened fire on the UN base.

The 10,000-strong UN peacekeeping mission is unlikely to leave and there are few countries that recognise Mr Gbagbo's government.

The UN force is currently defending the lagoon-side hotel that shelters Mr Ouattara's opposition government.

Its radio station UNOCI FM is one of the few alternative news sources for Ivorians, after opposition newspapers were banned and many foreign news channels taken off the air. Non-essential UN staff have already left.

Mr Ouattara's supporters have said they would take to the streets again, following gun battles which left 20 dead in Abidjan on Thursday.

The UN Security Council warned that all sides would be held accountable under international law for any attacks against civilians.

The United Nations, the US, former colonial power France, and the African Union have all called on Mr Gbagbo to stand down.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Friday said he should quit by Sunday or face EU sanctions.

But Mr Ghagbo says the election was rigged by rebels who still hold the north after the civil war in 2002-03.

The BBC's John James, in Abidjan, says tension has been building since the head of the UN peacekeeping mission, Choi Young-Jin recognised opposition leader Alassane Ouattara as the rightful winner of the election.

A peace deal signed by all sides gave the UN a role in certifying the election results.

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