Ivory Coast presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara announced on Wednesday the closure of Ivorian branches of West Africa's central bank, saying incumbent Laurent Gbagbo had sought to seize its offices.

The rivals are grappling for control of Ivorian state funds after a disputed election which Ouattara won according to UN-certified results. Gbagbo has already been denied access to Ivorian accounts held at the BCEAO's headquarters in Senegal.

Former president Laurent Gbagbo has decided to requisition the national management, branches and personnel of the BCEAO, Ouattara's parallel government, operated from a UN-guarded hotel in Abidjan, said in a statement.

It added that Ouattara had in consultation with leaders of the West African franc single currency zone decided to close all Ivorian operations of the BCEAO with immediate effect.

Such a measure is intended to securitize the financial assets of the Ivorian state and of individuals, it added.

It was not immediately clear how much funds are held by the BCEAO locally but diplomats say the figure is relatively small compared to Gbagbo's spending needs, including a $100-million monthly wage bill for the army and public sector workers.