Laurent Gbagbo’s camp accused the Western backers of rival presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara of trying to sow divisions within the military to destabilise Ivory Coast.
The world’s top cocoa producer is paralysed by a dispute over who won a November 28 election meant to reunify it after a 2002-03 war, with each man claiming the presidency and setting up his own administration.
Election challenger Ouattara has been recognised as president by the United Nations Security Council and several foreign governments, who have threatened incumbent Gbagbo with sanctions if he refuses to step down, Reuters reports.
Gbagbo still controls state TV and the armed forces have pledged allegiance to him, although they are seen as divided.
“For several days, members of the Western military and civilian diplomatic services in Abidjan have tried to discreetly approach individual officers in the national army,” Gbagbo’s interior minister Emile Guirieoulou said on state television.
“The goal is to find soldiers and police and get them to declare support for Alassane Ouattara … and to embark on a project of destabilisation and fragmentation of peace and social cohesion,” he added.
Ivory Coast’s election commission declared Ouattara winner with 54.1 percent. The outcome was backed by the local UN mission, which had copies of results from almost every polling station and which is charged with certifying them under the terms of a peace deal agreed by Gbagbo and rebels in the north.
But the pro-Gbagbo Constitutional Council, the highest legal body on elections, reversed that decision by cancelling hundreds of thousands of votes in Ouattara strongholds, on grounds of alleged fraud by rebels.
Gbagbo is in control of the presidential palace and government buildings, and Ouattara’s parallel administration is run out of a lagoon-side Abidjan hotel around which U.N. peacekeepers have set up sandbagged machinegun positions.
The International Monetary Fund has said it will only work with a government recognised by the United Nations, and the World Bank and African Development Bank have said they will review their Ivory Coast lending programs.
The United States has threatened sanctions against Gbagbo and his family. The African Union has suspended Ivory Coast until he steps down but has yet to clarify whether it will also consider punitive measures.
Asked on the sidelines of an African Union meeting in Algeria whether sanctions would be imposed, Ramtane Lamamra, the Union’s Peace and Security Commissioner, told Reuters: “Our approach is quiet and discreet diplomacy. Noise doesn’t help.”
Allies of Gbagbo, who has long appealed to nationalist sentiment in his country, reject all criticism and outside pressure as foreign meddling.
“The government of Ivory Coast would like to remind members of the diplomatic corps that (it) … will not long tolerate the meddling of any diplomat, regardless of his seniority, in our internal affairs,” Guirieoulou said.