10 Dec 2010

Ivory Coast suspended by African Union

1:22 pm on 10 December 2010

The African Union has suspended Ivory Coast, following a disputed presidential election there.

AU official Ramtane Lamamra said Ivory Coast would remain suspended until opposition candidate Alassane Ouattara takes over from Laurent Gbagbo.

The UN Security Council earlier said Mr Ouattara had won the poll on 28 November.

However, Mr Gbagbo - backed by the army - is defying international pressure and continuing to cling to power.

In a separate development, the United States has warned that it would consider sanctions against Mr Gbagbo if he refused to step down.

Mr Lamamra made the announcement on Thursday, after an AU meeting at its headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Mr Lamamra said the decision had been taken by the council of the 53-nation bloc, describing Mr Ouattara as a democratically elected president.

Earlier, the West African regional bloc Ecowas, also suspended Ivory Coast.

Result overturned

The Independent Electoral Commission declared last Thursday, that Mr Ouattara had won the run-off poll by 54.1% to 45.9%.

But after Mr Gbagbo and his supporters claimed the ballot had been fraudulent in some northern regions, the Constitutional Council - which is run by an ally of Mr Gbagbo - overruled the Commission on Friday.

It said Mr Gbagbo had secured just over 51% of the vote.

Both Mr Gbagbo and Mr Ouattara have since sworn themselves in and named rival Cabinets.

The BBC repprts the election was intended to reunify the country after a civil war in 2002. The north is still under the control of the New Forces rebels who support Mr Ouattara.

Ivory Coast is the largest cocoa producer in the world.