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Mediators return to Cote d'Ivoire to persuade Gbagbo to give up power

01-04-2011 07:37 BJT

ABIDJAN, Jan. 3 (Xinhua) -- African mediators returned to Abidjan, the economic capital of Cote d'Ivoire, on Monday to continue their persuasion of incumbent Laurent Gbagbo to give up power.

On Dec. 28, Benin's President Yayi Boni, Sierra Leone's President Ernest Koroma and Cape Verde's President Pedros Pires visited Abidjan on a similar mission on behalf of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

The presidents made a comeback on Monday to be reinforced by Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who is mandated by the African Union.

The second try is seen as critical as ECOWAS has warned of possibility of legitimate use of force if Gbagbo refuses to hand over power to his rival Alassane Ouattara, who was internationally recognized as the winner of the Nov. 28 presidential run-off.

Gbagbo vowed not to step down as president in his New Year's message to the nation, dismissing the call for him to quit as "an attempted coup d'etat."

The 65-year-old incumbent also accused the United Nations of siding with one side in the political crisis in violation of its mandate, demanding that the 9,000 or so UN peacekeepers and 900 French troops leave his country.

New bloodshed is feared with Ouattara's camp calling for military intervention by ECOWAS and Gbagbo's supporters threatening to storm Abidjan's Golf Hotel, where Ouattara has been holed up under the protection of UN peacekeepers.

The United Nations, which is backing Ouattara, reported a toll of more than 170 in violence following the election and indicating mass graves created by Gbagbo's men.

Tensions have brought the country to the brink of open confrontation since the 2002-2003 civil war, which results in the New Forces controlled north and Gbagbo's south including the economic capital Abidjan. Gbagbo still enjoys the staunch backing of the army, while Ouattara has the international recognition and the support from the New Forces.



Editor:Zhang Pengfei |Source: Xinhua

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