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Britain eyes economic ties to Ivory Coast

July 27, 2012 at 12:35 PM   |   Comments

LONDON, July 27 (UPI) -- Ivory Coast can emerge as a regional economic leader through a growing commercial relationship with the British government, a London official said.

British Minister for African Henry Bellingham met with president and first lady of Ivory Coast in London ahead of the start of the 2012 Olympic Games.

"We will be greeting many countries in the next two weeks but few relationships will have so much potential to develop as there is with Ivory Coast," Bellingham said in a statement.

Bellingham said London was keen on expanding its bilateral trade with Ivory Coast during the next few years. There is a "huge appetite" there from British businesses and the country, he said, "can be a gateway to West Africa for U.K. business, as well as a destination in its own right."

Ivory Coast is the world's No. 1 cocoa producer. British explorer Tullow Oil announced in June that it made a discovery of light oil in deep water off the western shores of Ivory Coast.

Ivory Coast was pushed to the brink of civil war following disputed 2010 presidential elections. Former Liberian President Laurent Gbagbo is awaiting trial at an international court for alleged war crimes committed during the conflict. Human rights groups have suggested forces loyal to President Alassane Outarra may have committed crimes as well.

U.N. officials this week said an attack on a camp for the internally displaced in Ivory Coast bore signs of an ethnic campaign.

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