United Nations (CNN) -- The U.S. is prepared to impose "targeted sanctions" on Ivory Coast's incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo, the State Department said Friday.
"From the United States' standpoint, time is running out." spokesman P.J. Crowley said at a briefing.
The sanctions, according to Crowley, would target "President Gbagbo, his immediate family and his inner circle, should he continue to illegitimately cling to power."
Violence has broken out between supporters of Gbagbo and of Alassane Ouattara, the internationally supported winner of the November runoff. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Gbagbo's efforts to maintain his office "cannot be allowed to stand."
Ban called Friday for Gbagbo to step down and said that "any other outcome would make a mockery of democracy."
The United Nations, the Economic Community of West African States, the European Union and the African Union said Ouattara won.
"That is our message, as well: The results of the election are known. There was a clear winner. There is no other option," Ban said.
"I call on (Gbagbo) to step down and allow his elected successor to assume office without further hindrance. The international community must send this message, loud and clear. Any other outcome would make a mockery of democracy and the rule of law."
The country's Independent Electoral Commission said Ouattara won the November 28 presidential runoff, but the country's Constitutional Council invalidated those results and declared Gbagbo the winner.
Since then, there has been political stalemate.
At least nine unarmed protesters in Abidjan, Ivory Coast's largest city, were shot and killed by security forces during those protests Thursday, witnesses told Amnesty International. The violence erupted as troops loyal to the incumbent president and supporters of his challenger confronted each other.
Saying the "situation has taken a dangerous turn," Ban urged both sides "to avoid provocations or a further escalation of violence."
"Let me say clearly and directly: Any attempt to obstruct U.N. operations or blockade the Golf Hotel is totally unacceptable," said Ban, referring to the site of Ouattara's headquarters.
"Any attack on U.N. forces will be an attack on the international community. I emphasize: Those responsible for the loss of civilian lives will be held accountable."