Britain would support the use of United Nations-sanctioned military force to compel incumbent Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo to hand over power, Foreign Secretary William Hague said yesterday.
But he stressed he was not raising the prospect of British troops being deployed, although the UK has sent a military liaison officer to the troubled west African state.
Mr Gbagbo is refusing to hand over power to rival Alassane Ouattara, recognised by the international community as having won recent elections.
While Mr Gbagbo clings to office and has control of the armed forces, Mr Ouattara is holed up in a hotel with supporters.
Neighbouring states have launched a concerted effort to persuade Mr Gbagbo to quit, but have also threatened possible military action if he refuses.
Asked on BBC Radio 4's Today programme if the UK would support such action, Mr Hague replied: "Yes, in principle. They would be well advised to seek the authority of the United Nations to do that and we would be supportive of that at the UN."
But he added: "We are a long way here from discussing British forces being deployed. We have deployed a military liaison officer to the country to work on various contingencies with the French, but I'm not raising the possibility today of British forces being deployed."
He called on Mr Gbagbo to step down and said: "Through all possible diplomatic means, we are supporting a resolution of this crisis."
Official bank accounts have been frozen and the Foreign Secretary added: "He (Mr Gbagbo) will run out of money. His power relies on control of the army. He will run out of money in the next few weeks and that means his power will come to an end.
"He should not underestimate the determination of the international community that the will of the people of that country should be recognised."