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West Africa Heads of State Meet Over Ivory Coast Crisis


The chairman of the African Union is hosting peace talks in Nigeria in an attempt to resolve the deteriorating situation in Ivory Coast. Foreigners continue to flee the West African nation even as Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo says the government is fully in control of the situation.

African Union chairman and Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo is hosting a mini-summit in Abuja to address the crisis in Ivory Coast. Anti-French sentiments have been soaring in the world's number-one cocoa producing nation since the French military wiped out the Ivorian air defense in retaliation for the killing of nine French soldiers more than a week ago by Ivorian forces.

President Obasanjo's spokeswoman, Remi Oyo, says peace in Ivory Coast is necessary for regional harmony.

"President Obasanjo has always believed that peace is indivisible," she said. "Once there is a fire on the rooftop of your neighbor you must do something about it. Otherwise, it is going to ignite your own rooftop. Certainly, it is important for leaders in West Africa to bunch together to ensure that this is nipped in the bud once and for all. Otherwise, it will have a rippling effect, refugees destabilizing the economy of West Africa and everyone in West Africa and Africa is being affected."

Ms. Oyo says heads of state from Gabon, Senegal, Ghana, Burkina Faso and Libya are expected to attend the summit in Nigeria. South African president Thabo Mbeki traveled to Ivory Coast last week and has sent a report to the African Union on the deteriorating situation there.

President Laurent Gbagbo says he will send a representative to Abuja and he will remain in Ivory Coast.

President Gbagbo issued a statement on Saturday replacing his army chief of staff with Colonel Philipe Mangou, who was the commander of the forces responsible for the November 6th attack that resulted in the deaths of nine French peacekeepers and one American aid worker. The appointment is causing concern that there could be a split in the Ivorian military that would lead to even greater unrest.

Foreigners continue to evacuate the country. A member of the French Embassy says they have evacuated about 1,000 French nationals each day since last Wednesday.

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