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Nigeria: Ignoring Ivory Coast is hypocritical

Ivory Coast violence
A man who says he was shot in the face by security forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo while walking home in the Abobo neighborhood waits to receive stitches at a health clinic in the Anyama suburb of Abidjan, Ivory Coast Saturday, March 12, 2011. AP Photo

(CBS/AP) Africa's most populated country, Nigeria, has taken on the role of regional leader in recent years.

On Monday, Foreign Minister Odein Ajumogobia thrust his country further into that role by publicly lambasting Western powers for focusing on the conflict in Libya while standing by as the Ivory Coast descends ever further into violent political turmoil, Agence France Presse reports.

"The contradictions between principle and national interest that seem to be at core of international law and politics -- have enabled the international community to impose a no-fly zone over Libya ostensibly to protect innocent civilians from slaughter, but to watch seemingly helplessly as seven innocent civilian women and hundreds of other men, women and children (were) slaughtered in equally, even if less egregious violence," Ajumogobia said while commissioning his ministry's new office block in the capital Abuja, AFP reports. "These contradictions are impossible for us to ignore."

The crisis there is the result of incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo refusing to step down in favor of the internationally recognized leader Alassane Ouattara after the disputed November 28 elections, resulting in months of bloodshed and at least 440 deaths.

There is already a 10,000-soldier UN mission in Ivory Coast with a mandate to protect civilian, but they have been largely unable to keep the two factions at bay, and civilians out of the crossfire. Their work has been hindered by open hostility from Gbagbo's camp, AFP reports.

Military officials loyal to Outtara claimed Monday to have seized a fifth town in the country's far west, amid the deepening political crisis.

Monday's announcement came as thousands of youths gathered in the country's commercial capital to volunteer for the army to defend the incumbent leader who refuses to step down.

In the west, Lacine Mara, a spokesman for the forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara, said Republican Forces fighters captured the town of Blolekin near Liberia's border on Monday after an all-night battle.

In Abidjan, an Associated Press cameraman estimated Monday morning that thousands gathered in front of the defense ministry in response to a call to enlist from Charles Ble Goude, the leader of the Young Patriots organization.

Security forces loyal to Gbagbo fired mortars on a crowded marketplace last week, killing at least 25 people - an act resoundingly denounced by Western governments. The U.N. also condemned the attack and said crimes against humanity may have been committed.

An African Union mediation panel has given Gbagbo until Thursday to sit down with Ouattara, the internationally recognized winner, to negotiate a transfer of power.

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