x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

UK would back troop deployment to Ivory Coast

Britain's Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said today the UK would support a United Nations-sanctioned military intervention by Ivory Coast's neighbors if negotiations fail to persuade president Laurent Gbagbo to hand over power.

LONDON // Britain's Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said today the UK would support a United Nations-sanctioned military intervention by Ivory Coast's neighbors if negotiations fail to persuade president Laurent Gbagbo to hand over power.

Mr Gbagbo's security forces are accused of abducting and torturing political opponents since the disputed November 28 vote, which the UN said Mr Gbagbo lost.

Mr Hague told BBC radio that Britain hopes Mr Gbagbo can be persuaded to step down, or go voluntarily following the freezing of his bank accounts, but insisted that the UK would be supportive if neighboring west African states decide to send in troops to intervene.

"Through all possible diplomatic means we are supporting a resolution of this crisis," Mr Hague said. "His power relies on control of the army. He will run out of money in the next few weeks and that means his power will come to an end."

The Economic Community of West African States has sent combat troops to several nations in the past two decades, and defense officials from the member states met Wednesday in Abuja, Nigeria.

However, the regional bloc has said negotiations should continue and confirmed mediators will return to Ivory Coast next week to persuade Mr Gbagbo to hand over power to his election opponent Alassane Ouattara.

If the bloc eventually decides to intervene, it will have London's backing, Mr Hague said. "They would be well advised to seek the authority of the United Nations to do that and we would be supportive of that at the UN," he said.

Mr Gbagbo "should not underestimate the determination of the international community that the will of the people of that country should be recognized," he said.

Mr Hague said Britain had sent a military liaison officer to the region to work on contingency planning with French forces, but ruled out sending UK troops. "I'm not raising the possibility today of British forces being deployed," he said.