WASHINGTON The United States on Monday threw its support behind the call by Ivory Coast's presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara for a month-long ban on cocoa exports to stop revenues reaching his rival, incumbent Laurent Gbagbo.
The United States, which has joined most of the international community in recognizing Ouattara as the victor in the November 28 elections, welcomed the move by U.S.-based agribusiness giant Cargill to stop cocoa purchases, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said.
"We do support President Ouattara's call for a month-long ban on cocoa exports. Our embassy is in touch with relevant players on this," Crowley said.
"It is part of our strategy to deny Laurent Gbagbo the resources so that he can continue to buy support from the military and political actors and we hope that this will help convince him to step aside.
Dealers have said they are uncertain of the impact of Ouattara's call for the export ban, noting that Gbagbo's supporters control cocoa flows out of the country, the world's top cocoa producer.
Cocoa prices jumped to near their highest in 30 years after Ouattara declared the month-long export ban.
A European Union official said the 27-member group, which along with the United States has placed sanctions on Gbagbo and his close associates, was unlikely to slap a blanket embargo on purchase of Ivory Coast cocoa due to the potential impact on the country's population.
Crowley said the United States was working to coordinate its policies with the EU, but felt that the prospective cocoa ban could be one way of drying up his funding.
"There is this delicate balance here. We are trying to find ways to prevent Mr. Gbagbo from appropriating more resources that belong to the people of Ivory Coast so that he can resist the will of the people," Crowley said.
(Reporting by Andrew Quinn, Editing by Anthony Boadle)