Ivory Coast leader says he is victim of 'world plot'

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The Independent Online

Ivory Coast's incumbent leader, Laurent Gbagbo, who has refused to cede power, has accused world leaders of launching a coup to oust him. Meanwhile, the UN has warned Gbagbo supporters not to attack the hotel where his political rival, Alassane Ouattara, is being protected by hundreds of UN peacekeepers.

The UN has said that the volatile West African nation, once divided in two, could return to civil war, but Prime Minister Guillaume Soro, a Ouattara ally, told reporters that the country is already at this point – "indeed, it is in a civil war situation". He added that more than 200 people have been killed already and 1,000 others have been wounded by gunfire.

Human rights groups accuse Mr Gbagbo's security forces of abducting and killing political opponents, though Gbagbo allies deny the allegations and say some of the victims were security forces killed by protesters. The UN has confirmed at least 173 deaths.

The UN had been invited by all parties to certify the results of the 28 November presidential run-off vote. The UN declared Mr Ouattara the winner, endorsing the announcement by the country's electoral commission. But Mr Gbagbo has refused to step aside for more than a month now, defying international condemnation and growing calls for him to depart.

West African leaders have said they are prepared to use military force to push him out, but want to give negotiations more time.