Abidjan, Jan 01 (Agencies): Ivory Coast's incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo, who has refused to cede power, has accused world leaders of launching a coup to oust him.

Meanwhile, the UN has warned Gbagbo supporters not to attack the hotel where his political rival is being protected by hundreds of UN peacekeepers. A Gbagbo youth leader has called for internationally recognised leader Alassane Ouattara to leave the hotel by Saturday.

The United Nations has said that the volatile West African nation once divided in two faces a real risk of return to civil war, but Prime Minister Guillaume Soro, a Ouattara ally, said, "This is what's at stake: Either we assist in the installation of democracy in Ivory Coast or we stand by indifferent and allow democracy to be assassinated."

Human rights groups accuse incumbent Gbagbo's security forces of abducting and killing political opponents, though Gbagbo allies deny the allegations and say some of the victims were security forces killed by protesters. The UN has confirmed at least 173 deaths.

Gbagbo accused the international community of mounting a coup d'etat to oust him and said Ivorians were being subjected to international hostility.

"No one has the right to call on foreign armies to invade his country," Gbagbo said. "Our greatest duty to our country is to defend it from foreign attack."

The European Union said late on Friday that it had approved sanctions on 59 more people, in addition to 19 already sanctioned last week including Gbagbo and his wife. Gbagbo and about 30 of his allies also face US travel sanctions, though such measures have typically failed to reverse illegal power grabs in Africa in the past.

West African leaders have said they are prepared to use military force to push Gbagbo out, but are giving negotiations more time for now.

A high-level West African delegation is expected to return to Abidjan on Monday.
Col Mohammed Yerima, director of defense information for the Nigerian military, said that defense chiefs from the 15-nation regional bloc ECOWAS met on Friday to begin strategising what sort of assault they'd use if those talks fail.

But his comments appeared to suggest no such attack was imminent, as he said the plans would only be presented to ECOWAS leaders in Mali in mid-January.