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AU Envoy Continues Bid to Resolve Ivory Coast Crisis

Laurent Gbagbo, left, shakes hands with Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, an African Union envoy sent to mediate the ongoing Ivorian political standoff, at the presidential palace in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, 17 Jan 2011
Laurent Gbagbo, left, shakes hands with Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, an African Union envoy sent to mediate the ongoing Ivorian political standoff, at the presidential palace in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, 17 Jan 2011

The African Union's mediator to Ivory Coast is set to meet with the internationally recognized winner of the country's November presidential elections.

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga has scheduled talks Tuesday with Alassane Ouattara, in a continuing effort to resolve Ivory Coast's weeks-old political crisis.

The meeting comes a day after Odinga returned to Abidjan for what he described as a "very useful discussion" with the country's incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo.

Odinga has suggested the possibility of direct negotiations between the two political rivals, but Mr. Ouattara has insisted that Mr. Gbagbo's resignation must precede any reconciliation talks.   

Several West African leaders have threatened to remove Mr. Gbagbo by force if he continues to refuse repeated demands to relinquish power.  However, Mr. Odinga said Monday that a military solution is the "last resort."

Shortly before Odinga's arrival, United Nations peacekeeping troops were forced to fire warning shots after a crowd of Gbagbo supporters gathered near the hotel in Abidjan where the AU envoy is staying.

U.N. officials have expressed concern about the level of violence in Ivory Coast in the wake of the disputed November 28 election. A spokesman acknowledged to reporters Monday that the U.N. mission is operating under difficult circumstances.  But he said it will not be intimidated.

Gbagbo has called for the withdrawal of all U.N. troops.  And last week, pro-Gbagbo mobs attacked and burned several U.N. vehicles.

Earlier this month, Mr. Odinga and three West African presidents met with Gbagbo.  But the Ivory Coast leader refused their entreaties to step down.

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