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Fears remain that Ivory Coast could return to civil war

Women hold a piece of meat during a demonstration against violence and killings in the Abattoir (slaughterhouse) neighborhood, in Abidjan on December 22, 2010.

TEXT OF STORY

STACEY VANEK SMITH: The west African state of Ivory Coast is still without a new President. The old president Laurent Gbagbo has refused to leave office despite losing the election almost a month ago. Now he won't have access to the country's bank account. The Central Bank of West African States decided to recognize his opponent. Meanwhile foreign companies are pulling out and there are fears Ivory Coast could return to civil war.

The BBC's Pauline Bax joins us now from Abijan. Good morning Pauline.

PAULINE BAX: Good morning.

VANEK SMITH: So set the scene for us, if you will. How is this affecting the local economy in the Ivory Coast?

BAX: Life has become very difficult for regular people -- for normal Ivorians -- because of a lot of transport problems and because of the crisis, food prices have gone up. So people who want to make their Christmas dinner tonight are struggling to buy meats and tomatoes -- even simple things such as rice or cooking oil -- prices have doubled for some food items and it really makes life quite stressful apart from the fact that there's a very heavy military presence on the streets.

VANEK SMITH: You mentioned food prices are rising and I know the ivory Coast is a top cocoa exporter -- how this expected to affect the cocoa market?

BAX: The exports of cocoa beans has slowed down significantly. The authorities maintain that they really have no problems shipping out the cocoa to the west, but it's been really quite slow, and all the farmers have lots of cocoa beans in their homes, in their huts, the interior of the country, but find it very difficult to sell it and to ship it to the ports.

VANEK SMITH: Pauline Bax is a reporter in Abijan. Pauline thank you so much for talking with us this morning.

BAX: You're most welcome. Have a nice weekend.

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