The European Union is set to impose a travel ban on Ivory Coast's incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo over disputed elections, a diplomat has told the BBC. French President Nicolas Sarkozy had given Mr Gbagbo a deadline of Sunday to step down.

Mr Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara both say they won last month's election and have each named cabinet ministers amid a stand-off in the main city Abidjan. The UN, the West and African leaders all say Mr Ouattara was the victor. There are fears that the dispute could reignite civil war in the world's largest cocoa producer. About 50 people have been killed in recent days, according to UN human rights chief Navi Pillay.

She said she had received reports of hundreds of people being snatched from their homes by people in military uniforms. Some were later found dead. The diplomat told the BBC that an agreement had been taken in principle to ban Mr Gbagbo, and 18 of his allies, from the EU. The diplomat said the travel ban had to be officially adopted by EU leaders within the next 24-48 hours but said this was a formality as all member states backed it.

A separate decision may be taken to freeze any of Mr Gbagbo's assets in the EU. Over the weekend, Mr Gbagbo demanded that the 10,000-strong UN peacekeeping mission be withdrawn from the country, accusing the UN of bias in favour of Mr Ouattara. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon immediately rejected the demand.

UN troops are protecting the luxury Abidjan hotel where Mr Ouattara has been based since the disputed election. Mr Ouattara, a former IMF economist from the north of the country, was initially declared the winner by the electoral commission. But the Constitutional Council then annulled the vote in many rebel-held areas of the north, after Mr Gbagbo's allies complained of fraud.

The Council then said Mr Gbagbo had won, with 51% of the vote. But the UN mission in Ivory Coast, Unoci, which was involved in organising the election, said Mr Ouattara was the victor. The election was intended to reunify Ivory Coast, which has been split into two parts since a 2002 civil war.