France says I.Coast sanctions will strangle Gbagbo

Tue Mar 15, 2011 5:09am EDT
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PARIS (Reuters) - Sanctions will slowly but surely break Laurent Gbagbo's grip on Ivory Coast and France will do what it can to ensure Alassane Ouattara takes his rightful place as president, Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said on Tuesday.

"Financial sanctions don't work in 15 days. They work over months," Juppe told France's Europe 1 radio.

"It's clear today that Gbagbo is gradually being strangled."

Ouattara beat Gbagbo in a November 28 presidential election, according to U.N.-certified results, but Gbagbo has refused to go, defying international condemnation and Western sanctions.

The standoff in the former French colony has taken a backseat in recent weeks to political turmoil spreading across north Africa and in particular the crisis in Libya.

"We haven't abandoned him (Ouattara)," Juppe said as he prepared to host a second day of talks between Group of Eight foreign ministers that mainly focused on Libya.

"We've never stopped saying that we don't want Gbagbo, that he is not legitimate and that Ouattara is the only legal and legitimate president," Juppe said.

The showdown between Gbagbo and Ouattara and weeks of fighting risk tipping the world's biggest cocoa-producing country into civil war, reigniting a 2002-03 conflict the contested election was supposed to resolve.

Juppe said sanctions would gradually have their desired impact, noting the African Union and wider international community had made it clear Gbagbo should stand down.

"I think we'll get there," he said. "We will do everything it takes to ensure that the legal outcome prevails and that Ouattara, the legally elected president, truly exercises power."

(Reporting by Brian Love; Editing by Jon Boyle)