World piles pressure on Ivory Coast's defiant Gbagbo

The United Nations mission in Ivory Coast accused the defiant leader's men of involvement in killings and rights abuses against Ivorians and demanded he stop harassing foreign envoys and UN peacekeepers in Abidjan.

In New York, the UN Security Council warned that Gbagbo's camp could face new sanctions, and opened the way for the 10,000-strong UNOCI peacekeeping force to be reinforced -- dismissing the regime's demand that it leave.

The White House repeated its call for Gbagbo to step down, and in Brussels the European Union took its first concrete steps, imposing visa bans on the 65-year-old, his powerful wife Simone and 17 members of his inner circle.

"The election was clear, its result was clear, and it's time for him to go," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said, referring to Ivory Coast's November 28 election, which both Gbagbo and Ouattara claim to have won.

The West African regional bloc ECOWAS, which has suspended Ivory Coast, said it was surprised and disappointed at Gbagbo's ordering the UN out and urged him "to yield power with dignity without further delay."

Gbagbo has refused to cede power to his rival Ouattara, who was recognised by the entire international community as the winner of last month's vote, and deadly violence has erupted in the streets of Abidjan.

The United Nations has rejected Gbagbo's order to withdraw its UNOCI peacekeeping force, and its chief human rights official accuses security forces of involvement in dozens of alleged kidnappings and murders.

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