Ivory Coast arrests opposition figure for coup call

ABIDJAN Sat Mar 21, 2009 11:33am EDT

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ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Ivory Coast arrested, but later released, an opposition politician who had called on Ivorians to follow the example of Madagascar and force the president from power, his party said on Saturday.

Innocent Anaky, leader of the Movement of Future Forces (MFA), suggested in a state television broadcast in the world's biggest cocoa grower on Wednesday that Ivorians should remove President Laurent Gbagbo from power.

A party official said Anaky was taken into custody on Friday. "He is in trouble for having called on the Ivorian people to take to the streets to overthrow President Gbagbo," said MFA secretary Phillipe Legre.

Anaky was freed on Saturday after questioning, said Axelle Anaky, spokeswoman for the party and the politician's eldest daughter.

A police source who spoke on condition of anonymity earlier said Anaky was being held by security forces and questioned about his broadcast.

Anaky, a former minister who has become a frequent and harsh critic of Gbagbo, urged Ivorians in his broadcast to "throw Gbagbo from power and set in motion a genuine transition."

Elections in the West African country, which once had the region's most prosperous economy but has endured years of crisis since a 2002-2003 civil war, have been repeatedly delayed.

Former rebels in the north have not disarmed, registration of the estimated 7 million people eligible to vote is far from complete, and analysts say Gbagbo's ruling party, the Ivorian Popular Front, is reluctant to hold a poll it has no guarantee of winning.

The African Union suspended Madagascar on Friday after opposition leader Andry Rajoelina took over with army support after months of protests against President Marc Ravalomanana.

Ravalomanana had handed over to the military, who in turn conferred power on Rajoelina to be president. Major Western powers including the United States and the European Union say Rajoelina's rise was a coup d'etat. Several have suspended aid.

(Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; writing by Daniel Magnowski; editing by Tim Pearce)

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