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South African President Ends Ivory Coast Mediation


South African President Thabo Mbeki says he has relinquished his role as mediator in the Ivory Coast political crisis. The announcement came at a meeting of top African Union officials in Ethiopia.

South African President Thabo Mbeki says he is ending his mediation of the Ivorian confrontation because of his country's appointment this week as a member of the U.N. Security Council.

He said, "This would create a problem if we continued as mediator because what it would mean is that when the matter comes up before the Security Council we would have to say we take our mandate from the African Union. So, if we take our mandate from the African Union it means we cannot discharge our responsibilities as members of the Security Council."

The African Union confirmed the announcement Tuesday at a meeting during which it again extended the mandates of Ivory Coast's embattled leaders, President Laurent Gbagbo and Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny. It is the second time the Ivorian president's term has been extended for one year.

The United Nations announced Saturday that Ivorian elections scheduled for the end of this month would be postponed for another year. It said this was to allow for voter registration and consolidation of the various armed groups in the country. The announcement caused violent demonstrations in Abidjan.

Ivory Coast, also known as Cote d'Ivoire, has been divided since a failed coup four years ago. Rebels control the northern half of the country while the Gbagbo government controls the south.

An analyst with Johannesburg's Center for Policy Studies, Francis Kornegay, notes that Ivorian reconciliation efforts have been stalled for some time and President Mbeki's efforts have come under increasing criticism from various parties.

"This is sort of a strategic retreat out of that [mediation efforts] into dealing with it from a more manageable vantage point, which is at the level of the U.N."

He says the Ivorian confrontation is complicated by disagreements among the various parties.

"The Cote d'Ivoire situation has been a quagmire for several years now and there are all kinds of dynamics between and within these various camps."

He adds that West African regional politics have further complicated the process. The regional bloc ECOWAS has been overseeing the mediation efforts.

The chairman of the African Union, Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso, is to take over the mediation responsibilities until the end of the year.

African Union officials say the latest plan is to be presented to the U.N. Security Council next week.