ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast - U.N. peacekeepers laid sandbags and rolled out miles of razor wire Monday to protect the aging hotel that has become the de facto presidency of the man who most of the world says won Ivory Coast's election.
A U.N. tank took position on one side of the lagoon-facing hotel, and armored personnel carriers were strategically guarding the parking lot as Alassane Ouattara held his first cabinet meeting inside a hotel room.
Across town, in the real presidential palace, incumbent Laurent Gbagbo continued to defy calls from the United States, France, and the European Union to step down.
Last week, the United Nations certified results confirming that Ouattara won, and his victory has been recognized by numerous world powers including the United States. But that did not stop Gbagbo from going ahead with an inauguration over the weekend.
Ouattara's advisers gathered Monday by the hotel's pool and in the lobby. Joel N'Guessan, his spokesman, said they were asking for the United Nations to use force and physically remove Gbagbo if he continues to cling to the office.
"President Barack Obama called to congratulate Ouattara. President Sarkozy congratulated Ouattara. Germany sent it by fax. So did England," N'Guessan said. "These are countries that are on the Security Council. If they cannot make this man respect the results of an election certified by the U.N., then we might as well stop talking about democracy in Africa."
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is "deeply concerned" about the situation in the Ivory Coast, spokesman Martin Nesirky said Monday. Ban has been in contact with many world leaders and is consulting with former South African President Thabo Mbeki, who is serving as an international mediator in Ivory Coast, the spokesman said.
On Monday, the United Nations also weighed evacuating its nonessential personnel as many feared that the Ivory Coast might return to civil war.
Gbagbo, who came to power a decade ago and has stayed on as president five years after his legal term expired, has clamped down on TV and radio, yanking foreign channels off the air. State TV is broadcasting continuous loops showing his inauguration, and many in the capital are not even aware that most of the world, as well as the country's electoral commission, believes Ouattara to be the winner.