African Union Suspends Ivory Coast Until Gbagbo Steps Down

The African Union has suspended Ivory Coast because of President Laurent Gbagbo's refusal to relinquish power after last month's election.

AU Peace and Security Commissioner Ramtane Lamamra said Thursday that Ivory Coast is suspended from AU activities until the democratically-elected president, Alassane Ouattara, takes power.

Ivory Coast's election commission named Mr. Ouattara the winner of last month's election, a ruling backed by the AU, United Nations, and most of the international community.

But Mr. Gbagbo has retained control of the army and state television and shows no sign of leaving office.

The United States said Thursday it may impose sanctions on Mr. Gbagbo and others close to him if he fails to step down.

A State Department spokesman says U.S. President Barack Obama sent a letter to Mr. Gbagbo, warning that if he makes the “wrong choice” it will lead to the isolation of Ivory Coast and its existing government.

Mr. Ouattara has declared himself president and named his own government but has been unable to take control of state institutions.

The presidential election was meant to restore stability to Ivory Coast, eight years after a civil war left the country split into rebel- and government-controlled areas.

Mr. Gbagbo has ruled the country since 2000. His term officially ended in 2005, but he has remained in office through repeated election delays. voa

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