Ivory Coast: Four dead in Alassane Ouattara stronghold

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Media captionUN peacekeepers retreat from the scene of deadly clashes

At least four people have been killed in clashes between supporters of presidential rivals in Ivory Coast.

Two civilians and two police officers were killed in the neighbourhood of Abobo, Abidjan, a stronghold of Alassane Ouattara.

Mr Ouattara is recognised internationally as the winner of a November election.

But his rival, incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo, has refused to concede that he has lost.

His party has rejected an offer from Mr Ouattara to form a unity government.

Residents in Abobo reported heavy gunfire after at least 30 trucks of security officers loyal to Mr Gbagbo and several armoured vehicles surrounded the area at dawn, the BBC's John James reports from Abidjan.

Some reports cited the presence of armed civilians who exchanged fire with the police.

A spokesman for the New Forces - the armed movement that is loyal to Mr Ouattara and that controls the northern half of the country - said they were not involved.

UN peacekeepers who tried to enter an area of Abobo known as PK18 were turned back, the Associated Press news agency reported.

Fleeing to Liberia

The UN reported nearly 200 deaths in December, when pro-Gbagbo forces targeted opposition districts, but in recent weeks this sort of violence has declined, our correspondent says.

Meanwhile, the UN said on Tuesday that about 600 refugees from Ivory Coast were arriving in Liberia every day.

In total, some 25,000 people have fled to Liberia as a result of the recent unrest, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said.

November's presidential vote was supposed to reunify Ivory Coast, which has been divided between north and south since a conflict in 2002.

Mr Ouattara has been blockaded for weeks at a hotel in Abidjan, Ivory Coast's main city, protected by UN peacekeepers and New Forces former rebels.

Intense international pressure has so far failed to persuade Mr Gbagbo to give up his claim to the presidency.

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who is acting as a mediator in the dispute for the African Union, is to travel to Ivory Coast again this week in the latest attempt to break the deadlock.

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