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The financial war in Ivory Coast: Five key questions answered

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Rebecca Blackwell/AP Photo

(Read caption) Local residents walk past the burnt shell of a car, in the Abobo neighborhood of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Thursday, Jan. 13. Daily life was resuming Thursday morning in the opposition stronghold neighborhood, which has seen deadly clashes between security forces and residents in the past two days.

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Times are looking tough for Ivory Coast.

While Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade lobbies for a West African-led military invasion in Ivory Coast, the Ivorian military is threatening to mount a devastating defense on behalf of incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo, who just about every major world leader considers the clear loser of the Nov. 28 election.

But the real battle for the world's No. 1 cocoa producer isn't happening on the streets of the commercial capital, Abidjan. It's unfolding in the bank corridors where cocoa revenues are wired, where tax reserves are cashed, where government debt is issued, and where government debtors come to collect their "coupon."

Understanding Ivory Coast's financial war is key to fathoming the calm exuded by supporters of President-elect Alassane Ouattara, who have been playing cards at the Golf Hotel where their candidate, an economist and former deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund, has been living off helicoptered-in food for weeks.

Some rosy day, Ivory Coast may have a president – or its version of a 38th parallel – but until that dawn, here are the five questions that should determine the outcome of what must be the most convoluted conflict of the year.

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