African nations seek to end Cote d'Ivoire crisis
Updated: 2011-01-04 08:10
By Charles Onians (China Daily)
Jordanian peacekeepers, patrol along a street in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, on Dec 30. Some people yell "UN out!" as the Jordanian UN peacekeepers pass by in their armored personnel carriers, but generally these soldiers don't understand French and so they miss the comments. Marc Chown Oved / Associated Press
ABIDJAN, Cote d'Ivoire - African powers were launching a new diplomatic push for a peaceful solution to the Cote d'Ivoire's deadly crisis on Monday, piling pressure on defiant leader Laurent Gbagbo to quit and avoid an armed intervention.
Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, named by the African Union to try to broker an end to the standoff between Gbagbo and the man the world says beat him to the presidency, Alassane Ouattara, flew to Nigeria on Sunday en route to Abidjan.
Odinga, who has previously called for Gbagbo's removal by force, had dinner with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who also heads the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
"I will travel to Abidjan to meet presidents Gbagbo and Alassane Quattara and return in the evening to Abuja to brief President Jonathan on my mission," he said.
Ahead of the talks, Odinga said he would keep an open mind on finding a solution for Cote d'Ivoire.
"We don't want to pre-empt anything. We just want to talk to him (Gbagbo) and we will see what happens," Odinga told AFP after he arrived in Nigeria.
"It depends on how Gbagbo wants to handle it."
Odinga will meet the Cote d'Ivoire strongman alongside three regional presidents returning to Abidjan on Monday on behalf of ECOWAS, a source close to the African Union told AFP.
Benin's Boni Yayi, Sierra Leone's Ernest Koroma and Cape Verde's Pedro Pires have so far failed to convince Gbagbo to step down despite ECOWAS brandishing the threat of military intervention to oust him if mediation fails.
Jonathan said ECOWAS will decide by Tuesday how to handle the impasse, which threatens to erupt into civil conflict.
West African regional military chiefs met in Abuja last week and set in motion plans to oust Gbagbo if negotiations fail, according to a Nigerian defense spokesman.
A meeting to fine-tune the "last-resort" plan is scheduled for Mali on Jan 17 and 18.
Tensions have risen steadily in the deadly standoff since Gbagbo and Ouattara both claimed victory in a Nov 28 presidential run-off vote that it was hoped would end a decade of crisis in Cote d'Ivoire.
(China Daily 01/04/2011 page12)
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