WEST African leaders tightened the screws on Côte d'Ivoire's Laurent Gbagbo on Saturday, getting rid of his ally at the top of the regional central bank who had safeguarded his access to funds.

African states and world powers have been pressing Mr Gbagbo to cede power after a November election that United Nations-certified results showed he lost to rival Alassane Ouattara, with the regional bank last month announcing it would no longer accept Mr Gbagbo's signature. But the bank's governor, an Ivorian seen as close to Mr Gbagbo, failed to impose the bank's ministers' decision and would be replaced, the heads of state from West Africa's single-currency zone announced.

"The conference has taken note of the resignation of Mr Philippe Henri Dacoury-Tabley from his post as governor of the Central Bank of West African States," the leaders said after an emergency summit in Mali's capital, Bamako. The vice- governor would take over.

Mr Ouattara says Mr Gbagbo has tapped up to 100-billion CFA francs (200m) from the bank.

Ahoua don Mello, a spokesman for Mr Gbagbo's government, called the decision in Mali "hasty and inappropriate" . It would challenge it in the regional court of justice.

The country missed a 29m payment on its 2,3bn bond due in 2032 , but has a grace period until the end of this month . Reuters