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Africa makes last ditch effort in Abidjan

Feb. 21, 2011 at 10:44 AM

ABUJA, Nigeria, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- The internationally backed choice for president of the Ivory Coast will have to work quickly to reunite the country, an Ivorian scholar said.

Leaders from the African Union arrived Monday in Abidjan in an effort to break a political impasse that threatens to push the Ivory Coast back into civil war.

A November presidential election was meant to unite a country divided by civil war in 2002. Incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo refuses to step down despite a U.N. Security Council resolution backing Alassane Ouattara.

Hundreds of people were killed and thousands more are displaced amid the political violence that erupted after the election.

University of Abuja Professor Kabiru Mato told Voice of America that AU leaders were carrying a message to Gbagbo that his options were limited.

"The issue is that the (African) Union is trying to give Gbagbo the opportunity to agree to the diplomatic and peaceful means of resolving the crisis in the Ivory Coast," he said.

AU leaders said they would consider military force if Gbagbo tries to cling to power much longer. Ouattara's accession to power, meanwhile, will be dominated the "issue of trying to reconcile, trying to reconstruct, and trying to rehabilitate," said Mato.

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