World Bank freezes financing for Ivory Coast

AFP, Wednesday 22 Dec 2010

World Bank freezes financing to the Ivory Coast in light of its controversial presidential election

The World Bank has frozen financing to the Ivory Coast, which is in the grip of a presidential stand-off, bank president Robert Zoellick said Wednesday following talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Asked about a freeze, Zoellick told journalists "We already have," adding that he had spoken with Mali's President Amadou Toumani Toure about coordinating with the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WEMU), which he heads.

"(I have) also discussed with President Toure the need for the central banks with WEMU to also freeze the loans, which they have done," Zoellick said, referring to the grouping of eight west African states.

"They are also convening a meeting of ministers this week to affirm and strengthen this approach."

The move comes amid rising tensions in Ivory Coast over a deadly political stand-off between presidential candidates Laurent Gbagbo and his opponent Alassane Ouattara.

Both claim to have won Ivory Coast's November 28 election, but while Ouattara has been recognised as the winner by the international community, the incumbent Gbagbo has refused to stand down.

Instead, Gbagbo has deployed his loyalist armed forces to put down pro-Ouattara protests, often with deadly force, and to bottle up his adversary in a hotel which is protected by 800 UN peacekeeping troops.

"For other countries in Africa, including Mali, Cote d'Ivoire is a critical economic partner," Zoellick said of the world's largest cocoa producer.

"So we at the bank are working with the African Development bank to follow the lead of the ECOWAS countries because they have a huge amount at stake, economically as well as democratically."

The 15-member Economic Community of West African States has already suspended Ivory Coast as a member and is on Friday to hold an emergency summit in the Nigerian capital Abuja on the crisis.

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