LONDON, March 7 (UPI) -- The British government is "deeply concerned" by the escalating level of violence in the Ivory Coast, the British minister for African declared.
Fighting in the Ivory Coast has raged since a November presidential election meant to unite a country divided by civil war produced rival claims to victory. The U.N. Security Council passed a resolution backing Alassane Ouattara as the winner of the contest though incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo has refused to give up power.
The U.N. refugee agency estimates at least 50,000 people fled to Liberia since the conflict began. The BBC reports the fighting is moving west toward the Liberian border with at least one shell falling on the Liberian side of the border.
British Foreign Minister for Africa Henry Bellingham expressed alarm over the escalating situation in the world's top cocoa-producing nation.
"I am deeply concerned by the deteriorating security situation in Ivory Coast," he said in a statement. "The increasing violence is creating a climate of fear that has led to large numbers of people fleeing their homes and significant refugee flows into neighboring Liberia."
Five women marching in support of Ouattara were killed during demonstration last week.
The crisis in Ivory Coast is approaching a breaking point as most economic activity is at a standstill.
U.N. officials have warned the country is on the brink of civil war and the U.S. State Department last week issued a travel warning for Ivory Coast.