West African States to Remove Gbagbo as Bank Signatory

West African states will meet on Jan. 22 to take further steps to prevent Ivory Coast’s incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo, from accessing the country’s accounts at the region’s central bank.

Gbagbo will be removed as a signatory at the Central Bank of West African States, Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, an African Union-appointed mediator, said in an e-mailed statement today.

“Mr. Gbagbo’s removal as a signatory with the bank will begin the crippling of his regime, which has been declared illegitimate,” Odinga said.

Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognized winner of a Nov. 28 presidential election, says Gbagbo has withdrawn about 80 billion francs ($164 million) from the central bank since the institution said on Dec. 24 it would only recognize people approved by Ouattara for transactions. The withdrawals have frustrated Ouattara, who was hoping that Gbagbo would lose the support of the military if he couldn’t pay their wages.

Gbagbo’s government is “withdrawing money on a daily basis” from the central bank account, said Ahoua Don Mello, an adviser to Gbagbo, in an interview Jan. 17.

Marie-Laure Digbe, spokeswoman for the bank, was not available to comment, according to a woman who answered the phone at her office and declined to give her name.

Death Toll

The eight members of the Economic and Monetary Union of West Africa, of which the central bank is a part, share a common currency, the CFA franc, which is pegged to the euro. Ivory Coast is the biggest economy in the Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso-based union. The Jan. 22 meeting will be held in Bamako, the Malian capital, according to the group’s website.

At least 260 people have been killed in violent clashes that followed the election, the United Nations said today. About 68 people are missing.

Odinga was appointed by the African Union to help resolve the impasses. He visited Ghana, Burkina Faso and Mali to lobby leaders in those countries for support after leaving Abidjan without a resolution.

Alcide Djedje, Gbagbo’s foreign minister, said yesterday they would no longer recognize Odinga as mediator, saying he has taken Ouattara’s side in the dispute.

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