Ivory Coast Battle Over Embassies Moves To Washington

"(VOANEWS)
The Ivory Coast battle over ambassadors has moved to Washington where supporters of internationally-recognized President Alasanne Ouattara apparently forced the Ivorian embassy to shut down. Incumbent Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo is refusing to step down following elections in November, despite growing outside pressure including from diplomatic postings.

Protesters were hoping to storm the embassy and take down Mr. Gbagbo's photograph inside the Ivory Coast embassy in Washington.

But military guards refused them access, telling them the embassy was shut down for the holidays until January 3.

So instead the protesters put up a sign in French reading the ""Ivory Coast ambassador has fled, Mr. Gbagbo is a rebel,"" outside the entrance. Protesters had gotten a permit for the demonstration, and some said they believed this led to Ivorian authorities being alerted. Several police cars milled around.

But one of the protest organizers Yacouba Kone considered Thursday's action a victory.

""They decided to close because we were coming to do a demonstration, because they are scared of us,"" said Kone. ""This is a victory for us because, running away, it is like a war, when you run away, you are scared, so we won. Surely they know that they are not [representing] the legitimate president of Ivory Coast so they are scared, and we will come back another day for the demonstration.""

Several families and individuals who came by to pick up visas or deliver paperwork were turned away. A call to the embassy for comment was not answered. Earlier in the week, an embassy spokesman said the ambassador previously appointed by Mr. Gbagbo, Charles Koffi was still at his desk working, but there was no sign of him at the compound on Thursday."