EU says ready to help rebuild Ivory Coast
(STRASBOURG) - The European Union said Wednesday it was ready to help rebuild the Ivory Coast's battered economy and institutions amid a bitter conflict between two rival leaders.
"We are ready to consider a series of measures, to present a financial and institutional package" for the country when the situation stabilises, Hungary's minister of state for foreign affairs Zsolt Nemeth told the European parliament.
Nemeth, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, was speaking on behalf of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who was unable to attend the gathering. He did not elaborate on the planned aid package.
The Ivorian economy, based largely on exports of cocoa, of which it is the world's top producer, has been reeling from the bloody standoff between incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo and his rival Alassane Ouattara, who is widely regarded as the winner of the November 28 presidential election.
Once the economic engine of francophone west Africa, Ivory Coast is now mired in its most serious economic and humanitarian crisis, including skyrocketing inflation, a crippled banking system, massive unemployment and a refugee exodus to neighbouring country.
Earlier Wednesday, the European Union imposed new sanctions on Gbagbo, banning the purchase of bonds from his "illegitimate government."
The EU already slapped a raft of sanctions against Gbagbo and his associates over his refusal to step down after he lost the November elections.
Pro-Ouattara forces launched an assault on Gbagbo's residence in Abidjan's northern suburb Cocody on Wednesday in a fresh effort to end his hold on power.
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