|France was Cote d'Ivoire's colonial ruler until 1960. [Reuters]
Nicolas Sarkozy, France's president, has said Cote d'Ivoire's Laurent Gbagbo must surrender his presidential post by the end of the week or face international sanctions.
Sarkozy denounced Gbagbo's stand as scandalous on Friday at a news conference at the end of a European Union summit.
"There is no other option for Mr. Gbagbo but to rapidly leave a position of power that he is usurping," said Sarkozy.
"Laurent Gbagbo and his wife have their fate in their hands. If Laurent Gbagbo has not quit before the end of the week, the post he holds in violation of the will of the Ivorian people, they will be put on the sanctions list by name."
Incumbent president Gbagbo is locked in a power struggle with rival Alassane Ouattara as both claim victory in a November 28 election that was meant to reunite the world's top cocoa grower after a 2002-03 civil war but has instead deepened divisions.
Ouattara, a former prime minister, is widely recognised abroad as having won the election legitimately.
Sarkozy slammed Gbagbo's stand and suggested he could even end up being pursued by the International Criminal Court.
"It's up to Mr Gbagbo to decide the image he wants to leave leave in history. Does he want to leave the image of a man of peace? There's still time but time is passing and he must go," said Sarkozy.
"Or does he want to leave the image of someone who allowed totally innocent civilians to be shot? In that case, there are international jurisdictions such as the (International) Criminal Court where the prosecutor himself says he is watching the situation very closely and that those who ordered the firing will be called to account."
Threats nothing new
Sarkozy had waited last week for the United Nations to publicly back Ouattara before publicly stating a similar line.
But Al Jazeera's Ama Boateng, reporting from Abidjan, said that Gbagbo has "heard these threats before."
"We've heard them from the African Union, we've heard them from the United Nations, we've heard them from pretty much every international voice," said Boateng. "And so far, that has had very, very little effect."
Our correspondent also reported that Jean Ping, the African Union commission chair, is in Abidjan, meeting with Gbagbo, Ouattara and other diplomats in an attempt to make some progress in the deadlock. But there's little reason for optimism at this point.
"After all, the African Union sent somebody else, former South African President Thabo Mbeki here, and he left after two days with little success."
Boateng said Ouattara's supporters have vowed to march out on Friday night and take control of the state broadcaster's headquarters, replacing its current chief.
A failed attempt on Thursday to do the same thing left at least 30 people dead.