Britain demanded that Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo, who has refused to step down after a disputed election, “go and go now”.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg made Britain’s toughest statement yet on the crisis after meeting Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore in London on Monday evening to discuss the situation in Ivory Coast.
Compaore, a regional power-broker, is visiting London and Paris on behalf of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which is trying to resolve the crisis, Reuters reports.
Gbagbo faces strong international pressure to quit in favour of challenger Alassane Ouattara, who is widely recognised as having won a presidential election on Nov. 28.
“I set out the clear position of the British government that former President Gbagbo, having lost the election, should go, and go now,” Clegg said in a statement.
“The people of Cote d’Ivoire have made their choice, confirmed by the electoral commission and the UN, and that choice must be respected,” he said.
“West African leaders, including President Compaore, have made clear that they too wish to see a peaceful and swift transfer of power, and I welcome their firm stance on this issue,” he added.
ECOWAS has threatened Gbagbo with force if he does not leave power. The United States and the European Union have imposed travel bans and other sanctions on him and his inner circle.
Britain has said it would give support at the United Nations for the use of force to oust Gbagbo if West African nations sought backing for military intervention.
However, Foreign Secretary William Hague has played down any prospect of direct British military intervention.
The United Nations human rights office said last week that at least 247 people have been killed in violence in Ivory Coast since the disputed election.