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AU Official Travels to Ivory Coast to Help Resolve Crisis

Ivory Coast's internationally-recognized President, Alassane Ouattara, right, addresses journalists following a meeting with African Union commission chairman Jean Ping, left, at the Golf Hotel in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, March 5, 2011
Ivory Coast's internationally-recognized President, Alassane Ouattara, right, addresses journalists following a meeting with African Union commission chairman Jean Ping, left, at the Golf Hotel in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, March 5, 2011

A top African Union official has traveled to Ivory Coast to give the country's rival presidents a message from African leaders calling for an "immediate end" to the killings.

AU Commission chief Jean Ping met Saturday in Abidjan with Alassane Ouattara, the U.N.-certified winner of Ivory Coast's presidential election in November.  Ping planned to meet separately with incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo, who refuses to yield power to Mr. Ouattara.

A panel of AU presidents tasked with finding a solution to the political standoff sent Ping to Abidjan.

The United Nations says at least 365 people had been killed in violence since the November election.

In other news, the United Nations is investigating suspected arms transfers from Zimbabwe to Mr. Gbagbo, a move that would violate U.N. sanctions.

A U.N. report says investigators are looking into the possible arrival of light weapons cargo from Zimbabwe, as well as 10 large crates that may contain trucks or tanks.

The report, which was obtained by Western news agencies, said the items have been in Abidjan for six months and are under constant surveillance.

Ivory Coast has been under an arms embargo since 2004.

A few days ago, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon accused Belarus of sending three attack helicopters to Ivory Coast to back Mr. Gbagbo.  The U.N. peacekeeping chief, Alain Le Roy, later said that allegation was based on false information.  He apologized to Belarus for the mistake.

The power struggle between Mr. Gbagbo and Mr. Ouattara has triggered violence throughout the country.

The medical aid group Doctors Without borders says fighting in the west is spreading.  An official with the group told VOA that 70,000 people have fled to Liberia to escape the clashes between security forces loyal to Mr. Gbagbo and supporters of Mr. Ouattara.

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