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EXCLUSIVE - Gbagbo: "If these pressures continue, it will make confrontation more likely."

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EXCLUSIVE - Gbagbo: "If these pressures continue, it will make confrontation more likely."

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Laurent Gbagbo, the incumbent president of Ivory Coast, has given an exclusive interview to euronews’ François Chignac in Abidjan.
The United Nations warns that Ivory Coast is on the brink of civil war after the country’s disputed presidential election on November 28. The international community recognises Alassane Ouattara as the winner. But Gbagbo has refused to quit. He argues that he is the country’s rightful president, as the Ivorian Constitutional Council declared him as the victor.

François Chignac, euronews
It’s been over a month since the Independent Electoral Commission declared your rival, Alassane Ouattara, as the winner of the presidential election. Days later, the Constitutional Council announced that you had won. Ivory Coast is facing its worst political crisis for years. Where is the country at right now?

Laurent Gbagbo, Incumbent Ivory Coast President
It must be understood this was an illegitimate result, which was prematurely declared by a body that had no right to do so. It’s on this point that the West is digging its heels in. After the vote, the Constitutional Council meets and then gives the result. It declares who is the elected president and that was me. It’s not open to debate. What the West is arguing for is not legal. It’s imposing the will of the powerful on somebody else. I don’t agree with it.

euronews:
The EU questions your legitmacy.

Laurent Gbagbo:
The European Union just follows what France does. Amongst today’s great global powers, each has its own sphere of influence. When it’s something to do with Francophone Sub-Saharan Africa, France speaks and the rest follow. France drafted all of the UN resolutions on Ivory Coast. We contested this several times but we are a small country. We’re not a nuclear power, we have no right of veto and we have no seat at the UN Security Council.

euronews:
Your rival Alassane Ouattara has formed a government and appointed ambassadors. Ouattara’s choice for ambassador to France has been formally recognised.

Laurent Gbagbo:
But France is wrong. I’m saying France is wrong.

euronews:
Laurent Gbagbo, you spent 30 years in opposition during a long political career. Nicolas Sarkozy has given you an ultimatum (to resign and leave the country). What’s your message to the French president?

Laurent Gbagbo:
It’s simply unacceptable that a head of state, under the pretext that his country is more powerful than another, gives an ultimatum to one of his counterparts.

euronews:
Your opponents say that you are not a democrat, that you’re a dictator and you’ve carried out an electoral hold-up.

Laurent Gbagbo:
When?

euronews:
…that you’re responsible for a denial of democracy in these past weeks. How do you respond?

Laurent Gbagbo:
They are in no position to speak like that as they’re all holed up in that luxury hotel. They supported one-party rule when we were fighting for a multi-party system … Ouattara, Bédier. I was in prison when Ouattara was prime minister.

euronews:
Laurent Gbagbo, are you prepared to sacrifice the lives of Ivorians to justify your vision of democracy?

Laurent Gbagbo:
It’s not a question of sacrificing Ivorian lives, it’s a more global question…

euronews:
But we’re on the threshold of that. The situation here is tense.

Laurent Gbagbo:
It’s not the first time there have been tensions in Ivory Coast.

euronews:
You won’t resign?

Laurent Gbagbo:
Listen, I’ve been elected. You should ask that question to those who have not.

euronews:
If the international community continues to put pressure on you within the coming weeks, will you resign?

Laurent Gbagbo:
But why would they continue with such unfair pressure?

euronews:
If there is violence on the streets, if there are atrocities committed by both sides, will you resign?

Laurent Gbagbo:
By who? I have a question that I’d like to ask, one that people don’t ask enough. If I said I would leave office right now, who could provide an assurance that it would bring peace and that it would not bring even greater violence?

euronews:
If ECOWAS forces intervene …?

Laurent Gbagbo:
They’d be wrong.

euronews:
… and if young Ivorians clash with those ECOWAS forces, will you resign?

Laurent Gbagbo:
I will see, but it’s not on the agenda for the moment. What’s on the agenda is to negotiate. So we are negotiating. I ask myself why those who pretend to have beaten me oppose a recount of the votes. That’s what I want to know. I ask those people to support a recount.

euronews:
So you accuse your rivals of committing the atrocities after the second round?

Laurent Gbagbo:
Exactly. Have we beaten or mistreated people, even raped women, depending on whether they voted for Gbagbo or not? It’s a key question.

euronews:
When the UN representative for human rights points the finger at you, how do you respond?

Laurent Gbagbo:
That’s another question. A question to which I’d like to reply in some detail. What is the problem today in Ivory Coast? It is that we’ve held elections but the problem is knowing who has won them. That’s at the root of all this. I said that I am the winner because those bodies which are the only ones with the authority to do so declared me as such. The others will say otherwise. They can do that, but they can see it is without any legal basis.

So like in all these cases, when there’s no debate over the essential question, which is who won the election. They go on about other matters to divert attention, like brandishing the question of human rights. In 2000, when I was elected, it was the same scenario. They invented a tale about mass graves, blaming me for them. I ordered an investigation and we had an inquiry. We had a trial and the gendarmes who were accused were acquitted.

euronews:
Are the UN forces in Ivory Coast impartial?

Laurent Gbagbo:
Not any more.

euronews:
Since when?

Laurent Gbagbo:
Since this last election. We thought they were impartial since, let’s say 2003, 2004. But from the moment when their chief …

euronews:
… who directly questions your legitimacy.

Laurent Gbagbo:
I directly question their legitimacy. I think the people from the UN should be wiser. They know very well with the mounting tensions, which we blame them for, that the Ivorian government has asked them to leave. I told people not to attack them. I told them solemnly to leave them alone. We asked them to leave diplomatically and we will get them to leave diplomatically. But they need to be a lot wiser. When those from abroad come and want to impose themselves because they have the possibility of using force … well, look what happens.

euronews:
So Ivory Coast and Laurent Gbagbo are the victims of a foreign plot?

Laurent Gbagbo:
I told the Ivorian people at the start of my campaign that they would have the choice between a candidate for Ivory Coast and a candidate for foreigners. That appears to be something of a caricature, but it’s the reality.

euronews:
Will this end up in a bloodbath?

Laurent Gbagbo:
I hope not. I’m doing all I can so that doesn’t happen.

euronews:
But maybe you will be unable to prevent it.

Laurent Gbagbo:
I don’t believe at all that there will be a civil war. But obviously if these pressures continue, it will make confrontation more likely.