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Britons advised to exit Ivory Coast

Britons have been advised by the Foreign Office to leave Ivory Coast mounting tensions in the West African nation following a disputed presidential election.

It said the threat of widespread instability and violence meant that anyone without a "pressing need" to remain should seek a safe way to get out by commercial means.

The escalation of the travel advice warning followed an attack on a United Nations base by six masked gunmen as Laurent Gbagbo continued to defy international calls for him to accept defeat in the poll.

Britain has urged all parties to respect the results announced by independent observers, and backed by the UN, which gave victory to opposition leader Alassane Ouattara.

The presidential election was intended to restore stability to the country following a long-running civil war which began with a 2002 coup attempt against Mr Gbagbo, who has ruled since 2000 without facing election.

Mr Gbagbo is now demanding that the 9,000 UN peacekeepers - some 800 of them guarding a compound from which Ouattara is attempting to govern - leave. As many as 30 people died in violent clashes on Thursday.

On its website, the FCO said that: "In view of the tense and highly uncertain security environment following the disputed presidential election...we advise against all travel to Cote d'Ivoire. Due to the threat of widespread instability and violence in Abidjan and other major cities British nationals are advised to leave Cote d'Ivoire by commercial means, if safe to do so, unless you have a pressing reason to remain." Borders and airports could close again, it warned.

Any Britons who chose to remain "should maintain a high degree of vigilance, keep a low profile, avoid the area immediately near the Hotel Golf in Abidjan, be aware that roadblocks can be imposed without notice, keep several days' stock of food and water and stay indoors until any demonstration or rally in your locality has passed", it advised.

A European Union spokeswoman later said Mr Gbagbo and his wife face sanctions after the disputed elections. Maja Kocijancic, the spokeswoman for the EU's external action service, said the pair are on a list of 19 names that is awaiting approval by the EU member states, likely toward the end of this week.

Last week, the EU said it would impose sanctions, including an assets freeze and a visa ban, on Mr Gbagbo and his wife if he hadn't conceded defeat by Sunday.

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