27 Dec 2010

General strike called in Ivory Coast

9:15 pm on 27 December 2010

Political parties loyal to Ivory Coast presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara have called a general strike across the country from Monday to force the incumbent president to cede power.

Laurent Gbagbo has refused to step aside following November's disputed election, which he insists was rigged.

Most public servants are already staying away from work in the general confusion caused by the swearing-in of two presidents, each with their own set of ministers, the BBC reports.

Mr Ouattara has been recognised internationally as the victor, and the West African grouping Ecowas has warned it may use "legitimate force" to remove Mr Gbagbo.

A delegation of heads of state from Ecowas - from Benin, Sierra Leone and Cape Verde - is planning to travel to the country on Tuesday to convince Mr Gbagbo to step aside.

The United Nations, the European Union, the US and the African Union as well as Ecowas all say that Mr Ouattara won the 28 November vote.

The BBC's correspondent in the Ivory Coast capital, Abidjan, says Mr Gbagbo'se hold on power is diminishing by the day. He adds that any intervening force would almost certainly come from Nigeria.