ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast - The man who refuses to leave Ivory Coast's presidency faced new threats to his grasp on power Saturday after regional leaders threatened to remove him by force if necessary.
Diplomatic pressure and sanctions have left Laurent Gbagbo increasingly isolated, though he has been able to maintain his rule nearly a month after a disputed Nov. 28 presidential runoff vote because of the loyalty of security forces and the military.
Even that may disappear if he runs out of money to pay them.
Gbagbo has refused to step down despite calls for his ouster from the United Nations, the United States, former colonizer France, the European Union, and the African Union. The international community recognizes opposition leader Alassane Ouattara as the winner of the election.
Late Friday, leaders from the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States threatened to send military intervention into Ivory Coast, the world's top cocoa producer, if Gbagbo refuses to step down.
If Gbagbo "fails to heed this immutable demand of ECOWAS," the bloc said in a statement, it "would be left with no alternative but to take other measures, including the use of legitimate force, to achieve the goals of the Ivorian people."
The bloc's president, James Gbeho, said the West African leaders were making an "ultimate gesture" to Gbagbo to urge him to make a peaceful exit. Gbeho said the bloc would send in a high-level delegation to meet with Gbagbo and tell him to step down.
The threat of force came on the tail of another serious international reproach. The West African economic and monetary union called on the regional central bank to cut off Gbagbo's access to state coffers.
Gbagbo's spokesman, Ahoua Don Mello, on Saturday denounced the union's decision to give Ouattara's government signing privileges on state accounts. He called the move "illegal and manifestly beyond their competence."
Gbagbo's government has denied rumors that state salaries would not be paid, and despite the financial freeze, civil servants received their pay Dec. 23. But senior diplomatic sources said Gbagbo had enough reserves to run the state for only three months, setting the scene for a drawn-out standoff.