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African leaders examine Ivorian stalemate

Jan. 31, 2011 at 4:09 PM

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- African leaders formed a panel to examine the political crisis in the Ivory Coast in an effort to preserve peace and democracy, a panel member said.

Incumbent Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo hasn't stepped down despite a U.N. Security Council resolution recognized opposition leader and former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara as the winner of a November election.

The election was meant to unite a country divided by civil war in 2002. Political violence in the wake of the vote, however, prompted U.N. officials to warn conditions there were ripe for genocide.

Jean Ping, the leader of the African Union panel working on a political solution in the country, was quoted by Voice of America as saying talks were favored over military pressure.

"You know the situation in the Ivory Coast, if you use force today, it will be a chaos and killings," he said. "So, we are going to use all the means to arrive to the same result, preserve democracy. I am confident that we will succeed more than the use of force."

Leaders of the Economic Community of West African States said they would consider military force to pressure Gbagbo to stand down.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement, however, that re-examining the November balloting "would be a grave injustice and set an unfortunate precedent."

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