The head of the central bank of West African states, who has been accused of not cooperating with the internationally recognized winner of Ivory Coast's presidential elections, resigned Saturday.
The decision by Philippe Henri Dacoury-Tabley was announced after a meeting of the heads of state of the West African Economic and Monetary Union in Bamako, Mali.
Ivory Coast's incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo has refused to give up power despite international calls for his ouster. The regional central bank had recognized Alassane Ouattara as the head of state and revoked Gbagbo's access to state accounts in December.
Officials with the regional union said that only representatives of Ouattara's government would have signing privileges on state accounts. The regional bank, known by its acronym BCEAO, regroups the treasuries of eight West African countries.
Ouattara officials have said that despite this action, Gbagbo has still been able to access money from the central bank. Without access to state funds, there is speculation whether Gbagbo would be able to pay state salaries.
In a statement read to media after the meeting, the union said that it accepted Dacoury-Tabley's resignation and called on Ouattara to propose a replacement for the bank.
Dacoury-Tabley is known to be a close confidant of Gbagbo.
He said he was pressured into the resignation after having been accused by Ouattara's camp of going against the bank's policy to cut off funds to Gbagbo.
"I agreed to hand in my resignation as that is what was asked of me," Dacoury-Tabley said after the meeting. He defended his actions as head of the bank, pointing to various practical and technical reasons for not giving control of Ivory Coast's accounts to Ouattara.
"Some people can't understand what really went on," he said. "I am profoundly sad for the institution that I served for 35 years." Ivory Coast was represented at the Bamako meeting by Ouattara's prime minister, Guillaume Soro, who said this was a positive step for the country.
"The measures that were taken were good ones because the legitimate government of Ivory Coast could not accept that someone who confiscated power continued to withdraw money from the Ivory Coast's accounts," Soro said.
Also Saturday, France's ambassador in Ivory Coast had his diplomatic privileges revoked by Gbagbo after Paris did the same to the incumbent leader's ambassador this week.
Ahoua Don Mello, Gbagbo's government spokesman, announced the measure on Ivory Coast state TV late Saturday. The foreign ministry in France released a statement saying it did not recognize Gbagbo as president and therefore dismissed the order.
France is the third country to have its ambassador sanctioned in Ivory Coast, after Canada and Britain. All three countries recognize ambassadors appointed by Ouattara. Canada and Britain also refused Gbagbo's orders.
While Gbagbo continues to occupy the presidential palace, the internationally recognized winner of the vote has been forced to live barricaded inside a hotel. Ouattara is being protected by around 800 U.N. peacekeepers, who have turned the Golf Hotel into a fort surrounded by barbed wire.
On Friday, Gbagbo ordered the military to stop and search U.N. vehicles. The move came after a series of attacks on U.N. vehicles and peacekeepers in the volatile West African nation.
Gbagbo's government already has tried to order U.N.
peacekeepers out of the country, claiming that they are no longer impartial after the U.N. certified election results showing Ouattara won the Nov. 28 presidential runoff vote.
The U.N. Security Council voted Wednesday to send an additional 2,000 troops.
The West African bloc of countries known as ECOWAS has threatened to oust Gbagbo by force if negotiations fail, but has set no deadline for such an intervention.
Ivory Coast was divided into a rebel-controlled north and a loyalist south by a 2002-2003 civil war. The country was officially reunited in a 2007 peace deal, but the long-delayed presidential election was intended to help reunify the nation.
But at least 260 people have been killed in violence since the vote. The U.N. said Thursday that nearly two dozen girls and women also had been raped in the country's west.
The U.N. also cited one case where it said security forces loyal to Gbagbo had used sexual torture techniques on at least one Ouattara supporter.