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Ivory Coast president says West trying to destabilize government

From Eric Agnero, For CNN
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Ivory Coast election mess
  • Gbagbo's interior minister makes accusation on national TV
  • African nations are distancing themselves from Gbagbo
  • Both Gbagbo and Ouattara claim victory in the November 28 runoff
  • Gbagbo's reinstatement spawns international criticism, threats of sanctions

(CNN) -- Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo, whose claim to office is in dispute following last month's national election, on Saturday accused Western officials of destabilizing his government by lobbying military leaders and state media to back his rival, Alassane Ouattara.

Gbagbo leveled the charge through his minister of the interior, Emile Guirieoulou, Saturday.

Appearing on national television, Guirieoulou said Western military and civilian personnel stationed in the country "have undertaken to discretely and individually" try and persuade Ivory Coast generals to back Ouattara.

"The same steps were undertaken with officials of the state media," said Guirieoulou.

Both Gbagbo and Ouattara claimed victory in the November 28 runoff for president. However, the African nation's Constitutional Council invalidated earlier results from the Independent Electoral Commission that declare Ouattara the winner.

Gbagbo was sworn in for a new term December 4.

Gbagbo's reinstatement has spawned international criticism and threats of sanctions against the west African nation.

The African Union has suspended Ivory Coast from the organization "until such a time the democratically-elected president effectively assumes state power." The AU's move followed a call from the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for Gbagbo to acknowledge the results of the runoff and hand over power to Ouattara.

The organization also suspended the country from all of its decision-making bodies until further notice.

"From now on, ECOWAS will deal with Ouattara, not Gbagbo," said James Victor Gbeho, president of the economic community organization. "There is nothing to negotiate as far as ECOWAS is concerned."

Observers say the threats of sanctions and financial isolation may be influencing Gbagbo. Young-Jin Choi, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's special envoy, met with Ouattara and said Gbagbo had agreed to meet with him.

The U.N., which had provided troops for security at Ouattara's hotel headquarters, added more troops.

Once a prosperous nation and a driving force in West Africa, Ivory Coast spiraled downward into instability after fighting erupted between the government-held south and discontented Muslim rebels living in the north. Thousands of people died in the conflict.

Ouattara, a former economist for the International Monetary Fund who served as prime minister, had been banned from previous races. He enjoys popular support in the rebel-held north, and Gbagbo has accused Ouattara of masterminding the civil war -- an allegation the challenger has denied.