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Negotiations Continue Over Gbagbo's Exit


A woman walks past soldiers loyal to Alassane Ouattara as they man a checkpoint at one of the principal entrances to Abidjan, Ivory Coast, April 5, 2011

A woman walks past soldiers loyal to Alassane Ouattara as they man a checkpoint at one of the principal entrances to Abidjan, Ivory Coast, April 5, 2011

Ivory Coast's incumbent president is negotiating the terms of his surrender, after United Nations and French troops attacked his forces in the commercial capital, Abidjan.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe says incumbent Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo is "very close" to leaving office and allowing Alassane Ouattara to take charge of the country. The France and the United Nations want a written guarantee from Mr. Gbagbo that he will step down.

African Union officials say Mr. Gbagbo told Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz that he is ready to give up power and recognize Mr. Ouattara as Ivory Coast's president. The Economic Community of West African States says it will ensure a safe and dignified exit for Mr. Gbagbo, who has taken refuge in an underground bunker.

Fighters backing Mr. Ouattara briefly battled Gbagbo troops for a sixth day in Abidjan before Mr. Gbagbo's army chief of staff, Phillipe Mangou, called for a ceasefire that he says will protect civilians and soldiers as well as the incumbent president, his family and members of his government.

The United Nations says its peacekeepers will offer protection to members of Laurent Gbagbo's military who lay down their weapons.

Hamadoun Toure, the spokesman for the U.N. mission in Ivory Coast said, "They said they are going to instruct their troops on the ground to stop fighting immediately. This will be a very, very good move for the end of the game. We are having problems for the last, I would say, four months, and this is an opportunity to put an end to the Ivorian crisis."

Pro-Ouattara fighters launched their offensive after negotiations failed to resolve Ivory Coast's political crisis.

Mr. Gbagbo says he was reelected when the constitutional council annulled as fraudulent nearly 10 percent of the ballots cast in November's presidential run-off election. Mr. Outarra's claim to the presidency is based on electoral commission results certified by the United Nations.

U.S. President Barack Obama is calling on Mr. Gbagbo to step down to end the violence. In a written statement Tuesday, Mr. Obama said every day that the fighting persists brings more suffering and further delays the future of peace and prosperity that the people of Ivory Coast deserve.

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