Bloc to Gbagbo: Step down or be forced

Dec. 28, 2010 at 9:59 PM
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ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, Dec. 28 (UPI) -- Three West African leaders spent Tuesday in Ivory Coast in an as-yet fruitless effort to coax Laurent Gbagbo to give up his disputed presidency, officials said.

The Voice of America reported there was no visible sign the delegation was achieving its goal.

The presidents of Benin, Sierra Leone and Cape Verde representing the regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States, were to have delivered an ECOWAS ultimatum -- step down or be removed by force, the VOA said.

The Ivory Coast's Nov. 28 presidential runoff was meant to mark an end to more than a decade of conflict, but the United Nations says it has led to a standoff that has killed more than 170.

Challenger Alassane Ouattara has been declared the winner of the presidential election by the United Nations and the international community.

But Ivorians and human rights groups accused armed groups loyal to Gbagbo of killings, kidnappings and torture since the election, the VOA said.

Gbagbo has demanded the United Nations remove its 10,000-member peacekeeping force from Ivory Coast but the international organization said the troops will remain to protect civilians.

Diplomats have said Gbagbo and his backers have rejected international protection from prosecution, promises of asylum and money, VOA reported. Gbagbo is insisting that the election results be investigated.

Organizers of a pro-Gbagbo rally that had been scheduled for Wednesday said it has been postponed indefinitely while the diplomatic negotiations continue, VOA reported.

Meanwhile, the VOA said, Gbagbo's government said it will cut ties with nations that recognize envoys named by Ouattara and expel ambassadors from countries that don't recognize Gbagbo appointees.

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