The United States has started planning for the possible evacuation of its embassy in Ivory Coast amid concerns that postelection violence could escalate into a full-blown conflict, the State Department said on Wednesday.
Spokesman Mark Toner said a team of eight Pentagon officials is now in Abidjan to weigh the U.S. options, including evacuating embassy personnel, and to assess the damage caused by an errant rocket-propelled grenade that hit the outer wall of the compound last week.
“They are looking at contingencies,” he said, adding that in the event of widespread unrest, evacuations “would be normal and prudent.”
Mr. Toner said the military team arrived on Tuesday. He also repeated U.S. calls for President Laurent Gbagbo to step down and said he should control his supporters.
Mr. Gbagbo has refused to accept the results of the November 28 election that tallies show he lost to opposition leader Alassane Ouattara.
Shortly after the rocket incident, the department ordered non-essential embassy personnel and the families of all American employees to leave Ivory Coast.
In a related development, the Washington lobbyist hired by Mr. Gbagbo’s government resigned abruptly onb Wednesday. Lanny Davis, in a letter obtained by The Associated Press, cited the refusal “to allow President Barack Obama’s call to be put through to Mr. Gbagbo, despite my repeated objections to that decision.”
Mr. Davis said he has not been able to reach Mt. Gbagbo directly to offer him this advice, despite repeated requests.