Ivory Coast’s Ouattara calls for general strike

ABIDJAN,  (Reuters) – Ivory Coast presidential  claimant Alassane Ouattara called today for a nationwide  general strike that would shut the country down until  internationally isolated incumbent Laurent Gbagbo cedes power.
The country has faced a violent political impasse since a  presidential election last month, which was intended to heal the  scars of a 2002-03 civil war but has instead ignited bloodshed  between the rival camps.
“I can confirm that we have called for a general strike  across the nation from tomorrow,” Ouattara’s spokesman Patrick  Achi said. He said Ouattara would issue an official statement  later today.
The move adds to international pressure on Gbagbo to step  down after the Nov. 28 election, which the United Nations, the  European Union, the United States, the African Union and West  African regional bloc ECOWAS all say Ouattara won.
Provisional election results showed an Ouattara victory but  the results were overturned by a court led by a Gbagbo ally.
ECOWAS has threatened to use force if Gbagbo does not quit.  Three West African presidents are due to fly on Tuesday to Ivory  Coast to convey the regional body’s ultimatum.
In an interview with France’s Le Figaro newspaper on Sunday,  Gbagbo said was taking ECOWAS’ threat to forcefully oust him  seriously, however he was not worried by it.
“All threats must be taken seriously. But it would be the  first time that African countries were willing to go to war  against another country because an election went wrong,” Gbagbo  said, adding that he was a victim of an international plot.
His interior minister, Emile Guirieoulou, told a news  conference Gbagbo’s government would “welcome the three heads of  states as brothers and friends, and listen to the message they  have to convey”.
The United States and European Union have slapped travel  sanctions on Gbagbo and his inner circle, while the World Bank  and the West African regional central bank have cut off his  finances, which means he may soon have trouble paying troops.
The turmoil in the top cocoa grower has boosted cocoa  futures <CCc2> <LCCc2> to four-month highs, while the country’s  Eurobond <XS0496488395=R> has dipped to a record low on concern  the government will miss a $30 million bond payment Dec. 31.
Guirieoulou rejected U.N. allegations of widespread human  rights violations by Gbagbo’s security forces, saying the world  body was being partisan.
The United Nations on Thursday put the death toll from the  violence at over 170, and the U.N. refugee agency said on  Saturday that 14,000 Ivorians had fled to neighbouring, Liberia  fearing an escalation.
The U.N. Human Rights Council issued a declaration  condemning human rights violations, including killings and  kidnappings, and calling for reconciliation to avert civil war.
Guirieoulou said: “Indeed, they have chosen to focus, before  any audit or investigation in the field, on the accusations and  allegations by one party, ignoring official records and  verifiable post-election incidents provided by the government.”
The U.N. mission in Ivory Coast on Thursday said masked  supporters of Gbagbo armed with rocket launchers had been  blocking a road to “a village outside Abidjan where allegations  point to existence of a mass grave”.
Guirieoulou said there were no mass graves.
“It has been over a week that people are talking about it,  but nobody has seen a mass grave.”
In a sign of more pressure, France said a plane belonging to  Gbagbo had been grounded at the Franco-Swiss Basel/Mulhouse  airport.

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