The international community increased its pressure Friday on incumbent Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo, who refuses to step down after national elections. The European Union increased the number of Gbagbo's supporters barred from receiving visas, and Britain's foreign minister backed the United Nations' potential use of force to replace him.
The Ivory Coast elections commission has declared Alassane Ouattara the winner of the Nov. 28 presidential runoff elections, a finding that has been backed by neighboring nations, the United Nations, the European Union and the United States. The violent standoff has already claimed more than 170 lives.
The European Union on Friday added another 17 people to its banned list of his supporters. The list now applies to 78 Ivoirians who are banned from receiving visas to enter the European Union, the EU ministerial council said.
Those on the list are people who are "blocking the peace process in Ivory Coast and threatening an orderly realization of the results of the election," the council wrote.
The banned list first applied to only 19 people, including Gbagbo and his wife, and was expanded to 61 earlier this week.
The European Union has declared its readiness to undertake further steps and said it intended to freeze the European assets of people on the list.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said this week that peacekeepers in Ivory Coast have been authorized to use "all necessary means" to defend themselves and government officials under their protection.
Britain would support "in principle" the use of military force, if sanctioned by the United Nations, to compel Gbagbo to hand over power, Foreign Secretary William Hague said Friday.
But in a BBC interview, Hague stressed that he was not raising the prospect of British troops being deployed.
Asked whether Britain would support any action initiated by Ivory Coast's African neighbors, Hague said: "Yes, in principle. They would be well advised to seek the authority of the United Nations to do that, and we would be supportive of that at the U.N." Hague called on Gbagbo to step down: "Through all possible diplomatic means, we are supporting a resolution of this crisis."
France on Friday urged its nationals anew to leave the troubled nation. The French government had first called on its nationals to leave Ivory Coast and delay travel to the African country a week ago. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said families with children should leave as a precaution.