US cuts finances to Ivory Coast's Gbagbo

[Update, 11:47 A.M.: Canada and Britain are rejecting the expulsion of their ambassadors by Ivory Coast's incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo, saying they recognize only the authority of his rival, the internationally-recognized winner of the country's presidential election, Alassane Ouattara, VOA reported.]

The United States has imposed financial sanctions on defeated Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo, his wife and his senior advisers.

The Treasury Department move was in response to Gbagbo's continued defiance of the international community's call to hand over power to the winner of a Nov. 28 runoff, Alassane Ouattara.

The results were widely declared by accredited international observers to be free and fair, with Ouattara winning 54.1 percent of the vote, but the country's Constitutional Council invalidated the results of theĀ Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) and declared Gbagbo the winner.

Gbagbo's government, meantime, made good on a threat to expel ambassadors of countries that decided to accept the ambassadors appointed by Ouattara.

"The accreditation of the British and Canadian ambassadors to Cote d'Ivoire has been revoked in line with the principle of reciprocity which guides diplomatic relations," government spokesman, Ahou Don Melo, said in a statement on national television.

BBC News reports that the expulsions are symbolic gestures because the U.K. ambassador is based in Ghana, and the Canadian embassy will be able to continue its work as normal.

"The British government has recognized Mr Alassane Ouattara as the democratically elected president of Cote D'Ivoire," said the U.K. Foreign Office. "It recognizes the legitimacy of statements made by, or on behalf of, his government. The British government does not accept the validity of statements made by others."

The U.S. financial santions target Gbagbo, his wife Simone Gbagbo and three of Gbagbo's senior advisers, as well as members of his inner circle for acting for or on his behalf, according to media reports.

The sanctions will block their U.S. properties and prohibit American citizens from engaging in any transactions with them, according to a State Department statement.

Gbagbo's efforts to remain in power threaten years of reconciliation and peace-building efforts on behalf of the Ivorian people, the statement added.

The political standoff since the Nov. 28 presidential runoff has paralyzed the West African nation and forced 22,000 people to flee the country out of fear of violence. The U.N. mission in the restive country said on Thursday that at least 210 people had been killed in post-election violence.

Two attempts by African leaders in a week to resolve the political standoff failed to bring about any breakthrough. Gbagbo has repeatedly refused to step down and Ouattara has ruled out any talks with his political rival. Both men insist they are the rightful president of Ivory Coast.

Ouattara has called for a commando operation to unseat Gbagbo, suggesting that a threatened operation by the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, would work quickly and cause little damage.