26 Dec 2010

Flight from Ivory Coast begins

1:34 pm on 26 December 2010

The United Nations Refugee Agency says 14,000 people have fled Ivory Coast since the disputed presidential elections there last month.

Most of those leaving are supporters of Alassane Ouattara, who is recognised internationally as the winner of the poll on 28 November.

The election was meant to unite the country after a civil war in 2002.

The UNHCR says more people are predicted to flee.

Deteriorating security in the former colony led France this week to urge its 13,000 citizens there to leave.

The United States, United Nations, European Union, African Union and the ECOWAS regional bloc have all recognised provisional results issued by the Electoral Commission showing Mr Ouattara as the winner.

But incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo insists he won the election

ECOWAS has told Mr Gbagbo to cede power to Mr Ouattara, saying he could face legitimate force if he refuses.

It was the first direct threat of foreign military intervention in the crisis.