ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, Feb. 14 (UPI) -- The federal coffers of the Ivory Coast could go dry without cocoa exports if incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo clings to power, his rival suggested.
Gbagbo refuses to step down despite international recognition that former Ivorian Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara won a November election meant to unite the country.
Civil war in 2002 divided the Ivory Coast into rebel-held north and pro-government south. African leaders trying to negotiate a peaceful settlement to the political crisis say the country is teetering on the brink of civil war once again.
Ouattara told the Financial Times from his stronghold inside a luxury hotel in Abidjan that he would use economic pressure in the form of cocoa exports to pressure Gbagbo politically.
"If Mr. Gbagbo leaves, of course the ban will be removed," he told the newspaper. "But if he stays on, I just think the ban will continue."
The Ivory Coast is the world's largest exporter of cocoa, generating around $4.5 billion each year for the embattled African country.
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