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AU Mediators Meet with Ivorian Rival Governments


African Union mediators are in Ivory Coast for meetings with members of the country's rival governments in an effort to end the political crisis. Supporters of the incumbent president say they will accept that mediation only if it does not challenge the president's re-election.

African Union officials are in Abidjan to lay the groundwork for a five-member heads-of-state panel that has been named to resolve the political crisis in less than one month.

Those officials will draft a report on the situation after meeting with representatives of both incumbent president Laurent Gbabgo and the U.N.-certified winner of November's presidential election, former prime minister Alassane Ouattara.

That report will then be submitted to the leaders of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania, South Africa, and Tanzania before they travel to Abidjan themselves to meet with Mr. Gbagbo and Mr. Ouattara.

The African Union says the panel's decision will be legally binding on all Ivorians.

But Mr. Gbagbo's supporters say they will accept African Union mediation only so long as it does not question the legitimacy of the constitutional counsel decision that is the basis of Mr. Gbagbo's re-election. The counsel annulled as fraudulent nearly 10 percent of all ballots cast, reversing electoral commission results that declared Mr. Ouattara the winner.

Mr. Gbagbo's youth leader Charles Ble Goude told a weekend rally in Abidjan the African Union mission must respect Ivorian law.

Goude says the African Union panel is not coming to Ivory Coast to rewrite the constitution or the laws of Ivory Coast. Everything that is done, he says, must be done according to the laws of Ivory Coast.

It is true that the constitutional counsel is historically the final legal authority on Ivorian elections, but for this vote, under a peace plan signed by Mr. Gbagbo, the United Nations must certify the outcome. And the United Nations certifies Mr. Ouattara as the winner.

Gbagbo supporters object to the inclusion of Burkinabe President Blaise Compaore on the African Union panel because he is a long-time ally of Mr. Ouattara and previously acted as the mediator in the political crisis that followed Ivory Coast's brief civil war.

Goude says President Compaore was the facilitator, then he became the complicator.

The African Union team is expected to stay in Abidjan through Thursday, before drafting their report for a meeting of the heads-of-state panel next week in Mauritania.

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