Ivory Coast: Africa mediation fails to end stalemate

Laurent Gbagbo (R) with Sierra Leone's Ernest Bai Koroma (L) in Abidjan, 3 January
Image caption Laurent Gbagbo (right) does not appear to have been swayed by the African delegation

Ivory Coast's political crisis remains deadlocked despite a mediation attempt by African leaders, President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria has said.

"There is still a stalemate," Mr Jonathan, who heads the West African bloc Ecowas, told reporters after talks with envoys who on Monday met the two men claiming Ivory Coast's presidency.

The UN regards Alassane Ouattara as the winner of November's poll but incumbent Laurent Gbagbo refuses to cede power.

Ecowas has threatened to force him out.

The envoys who travelled to Ivory Coast were Presidents Boni Yayi of Benin, Pedro Pires of Cape Verde and Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone - representing the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas).

It was their second trip to Abidjan in less that a week. On Monday they were joined by Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, representing the African Union (AU).

During their latest talks, they were reported to have offered Mr Gbagbo a legal amnesty as well as a guarantee that his financial assets would be secure, if he left office.

The AFP news agency has quoted the African envoys as saying Mr Gbagbo has pledged to lift immediately the blockade around Mr Ouattara's temporary headquarters - a hotel protected by UN peacekeepers - but this has not been independently confirmed.

Dialogue 'over'

After being briefed by the leaders on Tuesday, Mr Jonathan said they had been sent "to discuss with the two presidents - kind of; the former president, Gbagbo, and the elected president, Ouattara. There is still a stalemate."

But he added that Ivory Coast's election dispute would take time to settle.

"Don't expect that if there's a major crisis in a country that we just jump in... and the matter is resolved.

"It takes a lot of international pressure to convince people like that."

Mr Ouattara said after his meeting with the envoys that the time for dialogue was now "over" and urged Ecowas "to use all the means at its disposal including the use of legitimate force".

The grouping has been drawing up plans for a military intervention force.

But some doubt the region's willingness to carry out its threat given the unpredictable response of the Ivorian army, which publicly continues to support Mr Gbagbo.

The 28 November election was intended to reunify the country - the world's leading cocoa producer - which has been divided since a 2002 conflict.

Mr Ouattara was initially proclaimed the winner by the country's election commission - a verdict backed by the UN, which helped organise the poll.

But the Constitutional Council, headed by an ally of Mr Gbagbo, later ruled that he had won, citing voting irregularities in the north of the country.

The north is controlled by the New Forces, a former rebel movement that supports Mr Ouattara.

Both men have been sworn in as president.

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