ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast — The man who refuses to step down from the presidency in Ivory Coast ordered all UN peacekeepers to leave the country immediately on Saturday, calling the global body that has endorsed his political rival an "agent of destabilization."
The move was the latest act of political defiance by Laurent Gbagbo, who has been in power since 2000 and maintains he is the rightful winner of last month's runoff vote. The statement read on state television came just hours after masked gunmen opened fire on the UN base; no one from the UN was harmed in the attack.
Gbagbo's spokeswoman said Saturday that the UN mission in Ivory Coast, known as UNOCI, has not remained neutral in the election dispute. The United Nations certified results showing that opposition leader Alassane Ouattara had won by "an irrefutable margin."
"The state of Ivory Coast considers that the UNOCI has shown itself to be guilty of serious misconduct, which indubitably prove that it is an agent of destabilization and contributes to the further division of the Ivorian people," she said.
The United Nations did not immediately respond to Gbagbo's request. About 800 peacekeepers have been protecting the compound from which Ouattara is trying to govern the country.