Washington, Jan 07 (Agencies): The US Treasury froze the assets of defiant Ivorian strongman Laurent Gbagbo, his wife Simone and three of their inner circle on Thursday, as Washington stepped up efforts to oust them from power.

The move piles pressure on the Ivory Coast leader, who has retained control of the Army and continues to defy international calls to relinquish his grip on the presidency after disputed elections.

Since November 28 poll, 210 people have been killed in the West African nation prompting a tempest of international criticism.

The United States and other powers have backed Gbagbo's rival Alassane Ouattara as the legitimate leader of the country.

The Treasury cited the risk that Gbagbo poised to the country's peace process as the reason for the sanctions.

"Laurent Gbagbo continues to demonstrate wanton disregard for the will and the well being of the Cote d'Ivoire," senior Treasury official Adam Szubin said in a statement.

The ban means that US bank accounts and property owned by the five will be frozen and US citizens will be barred from doing business with them.

Gbagbo's associates were named as Desire Tagro, Gbagbo's chief of staff; Pascal Affi N'Guessan, a political adviser and spokesman, and Alcide Djedje, his Foreign Minister.