WELLAND, Ont. - Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he won't recognize the expulsion order given to the Canadian ambassador in Ivory Coast.

He says his government doesn't recognize the current regime's claim to government, and therefore doesn't recognize its orders for Canadian diplomats to leave.

Harper says the safety and security of the ambassador and embassy personnel is of "primary concern" and that his government will do what it can to ensure their security.

The government of embattled Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo announced earlier that it is expelling the Canadian and British ambassadors in Abidjan.

Canada had earlier asked Ivorian diplomats to leave Ottawa to protest Gbagbo's refusal to cede power after he lost the Nov. 28 presidential run-off to Alassane Ouattara.

Britain took similar action, which prompted tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions by Gbagbo's administration late Thursday.

The political standoff in Ivory Coast has paralyzed the once prosperous African country and led to violence that has claimed at least 173 lives.

The Economic Community of West African States has threatened military action against Gbagbo, but has shied away from committing troops.

Gbagbo, 65, came to power in 2000 and ruled during a civil war, then overstayed his legal term, which expired in 2005.