Ouattara asks EU to lift sanctions, seeks recovery

ABIDJAN Thu Apr 7, 2011 5:56pm EDT

Ivory Coast's presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara addresses a news conference at the Golf hotel, his headquarters in Abidjan, January 6, 2011. REUTERS/ Thierry Gouegnon

Ivory Coast's presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara addresses a news conference at the Golf hotel, his headquarters in Abidjan, January 6, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/ Thierry Gouegnon

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ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Ivory Coast's presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara said on Thursday that he had asked for EU sanctions on the main ports and other businesses to be lifted as a first step to bring the country back to normal.

Ouattara said a violent standoff caused by the defiance of Laurent Gbagbo to cede power after losing an election, has plunged the country into a humanitarian crisis.

"I have asked that European Union sanctions on the ports of Abidjan and San Pedro and certain public entities, be lifted," Ouattara said in a speech broadcast on French television channel

LCI.

"I have also asked the central bank BCEAO to reopen its branches in Ivory Coast, to ensure a resumption of operations in all banks so as to enable the payment of salaries and arrears in the shortest possible time," Ouattara said.

Ouattara said these immediate priority decisions were taken to provide security to the population and ensure the gradual recovery of economic activities and a return to normal.

"I have instructed the minister of mines and energy to make arrangements to restart the refinery, and in the meantime to ensure a steady supply of butane gas and fuel," Ouattara said.

Ivory Coast, the world's top cocoa producer and once the darling destination of investments in the West African region, has been plunged in a violent five-month conflict that has killed thousands and destroyed its economy, following a disputed election.

Gbagbo has refused to step down after a U.N. certified election showed Ouattara won. Forces backing Ouattara have been waging an offensive in Abidjan the past week to topple Gbagbo.

"As for the outgoing President Mr. Laurent Gbagbo, who has entrenched himself at the presidential residence in Cocody with heavy weapons and mercenaries, a blockade has been established around the perimeter to secure the inhabitants of the district," Ouattara said.

Ouattara said he had asked generals responsible for security, to take all necessary steps to maintain order and security of goods, people and their movements and also secure the delivery of food to markets and medicines in hospitals and health centers.

(Reporting by Bate Felix and Mark John)

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