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March 07, 2011

Four Killed in Latest Ivory Coast Violence

Witnesses in Ivory Coast say at least four people have been killed following a march against the rule of incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo.

Reports from the main city of Abidjan say security forces opened fire Tuesday in the neighborhood of Treichville, killing three men and a woman.  

Several hundred women had marched in the same area hours earlier to protest against Gbagbo, as well as to protest the shooting deaths of seven women during a similar demonstration last week.

Gbagbo is refusing to give up power to Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognized winner of November's presidential election. Ivory Coast has endured three months of increasing violence and chaos as the dispute drags on.

Earlier Tuesday, a spokesman for Gbagbo's party said he will not attend an African Union meeting aimed at resolving the political crisis.

The spokesman told VOA that Gbagbo will be represented Thursday at the meeting in Ethiopia by his party's leader, Pascal Affi N'Guessan.

There was no immediate comment from Ouattara, who has said he will attend the meeting.

A panel of African heads of state is trying to settle the Ivory Coast political crisis. Previous mediation efforts by leaders from the AU and the west African bloc ECOWAS have failed.

In another development Tuesday, the United States said Gbagbo's plan to take control of the cocoa sector "amounts to theft." U.S. State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley said the move is another desperate act by Gbagbo to cling to power.

Ivory Coast state television reported Monday that the government will nationalize the country's cocoa industry. Ivory Coast is the world's largest cocoa grower, and the price has skyrocketed to 30-year highs since the country's disputed election.

Since early December, Ouattara has remained barricaded in an Abidjan hotel, protected by U.N. peacekeepers, but surrounded by pro-Gbagbo security forces.  

The United Nations says at least 365 people have died in post-election violence in Ivory Coast, many of them in fighting between Gbagbo and Ouattara supporters in Abidjan.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.