Ivory Coast ‘Expels’ UK & Canada Envoys


    Ivory Coast’s incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo is expelling the British and Canadian ambassadors, a statement on state television has said.
    It said the action was being taken as a reciprocal measure. Both countries said the move was not valid.
    Mr Gbagbo has refused to step down despite rival Alassane Ouattara gaining international recognition as November’s presidential election winner. Mr Ouattara has urged West African special forces to remove Mr Gbagbo.
    The West African regional body Ecowas has threatened to force Mr Gbagbo out but has said it wants to try mediation efforts first. Mr Gbagbo still has the public backing of the army and control of state media.
    The UK and Canada are among the nations who have expelled ambassadors appointed by Mr Gbagbo in order to replace them with diplomats chose by Mr Outtara. The BBC’s John James, in Ivory Coast’s main city Abidjan, says the expulsions are largely symbolic.
    The UK ambassador, who acts as envoy for several countries in the region, is based in neighbouring Ghana, and the Canadian embassy will still be able to carry out its normal functions, our correspondent says.
    The state television statement said the UK and Canadian envoys were being expelled as their countries no longer recognised Mr Gbagbo’s ambassadors.
    “Through the application of the principle of reciprocity governing diplomatic relations, the ministry informs Madame Marie Isabelle Massip that her accreditation as Canadian ambassador in Ivory Coast is ended.
    “For the same reasons, the Foreign Ministry informs ambassador Nicholas James Westcott that his accreditation as United Kingdom and Northern Ireland ambassador is also ended.”
    The UK Foreign Office responded by saying: “The British government has recognised Mr Alassane Ouattara as the democratically elected president of Cote D’Ivoire.
    “It recognises the legitimacy of statements made by, or on behalf of, his government. The British government does not accept the validity of statements made by others.”
    Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said it did not recognise Mr Gbagbo’s claim to government and so his request was “illegitimate”.
    The UK withdrew recognition of Mr Gbagbo’s envoy on 31 December and Canada did the same on 29 December. France has said it will recognise Mr Ouattara’s envoy.
    The UN has also recognised Mr Ouattara’s appointee, Youssoufou Bamba, as Ivory Coast ambassador to the UN.
    Separately on Thursday, the US announced it had frozen the assets of Mr Gbagbo, his wife and three aides. It said it was barring US citizens from financial dealings with Mr Gbagbo.