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As Ivory Coast stalemate worsens, so do the chances of military intervention

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Will foreign forces intervene?

Military intervention is the question now being discussed all over West Africa, actually.

In December, ECOWAS – the 15-country union of West African states – signed off on "the use of legitimate force" to remove Gbagbo if the former history professer can't pick a sunny spot in Nice or Nigeria to while away his retirement.

The bloc has 6,500 troops ready to snatch Gbagbo from his presidential bed, but you need not mingle in a pro-Gbagbo Abidjan rally or interview a pro-government militia leader in the country's west to imagine how even a well-executed kidnapping operation could ignite a second gruesome civil war in this, the region's third most populous country.

An ECOWAS attack would lead to a "Third World War," threatened Charles Blé Goudé, histrionic agitator-general of the government-backed Young Patriots militia, notorious for its Kristallnacht-esque attacks on foreigners and foreign-run institutions.

Which is perhaps why Ghanaian President John Atta Mills announced on Jan. 7 that his nation would not participate in any military invasion of its western neighbor. To his credit, he is probably securing the safety of more than one million Ghanaians who live and make their daily bread in neighborhoods like Abidjan's Ghana Town.

But such prudence pits Mr. Mills (whose party denies that he received campaign contributions from Gbagbo in 2008) against Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, the 84-year-old grandfather figure in the region lobbying hard to keep the military option open.

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