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Ivory Coast Political Crisis Deadlocked, West African Leaders Say

Kenya's Prime Minister Raila Odinga, left, Sierra Leone's President Ernest Bai Koroma, center, and Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo, right, pose for photographers at the presidential palace in Abidjan, Jan 3, 2011

West African leaders say Ivory Coast's political crisis is deadlocked after another round of talks with rival presidents produced no apparent progress.

The presidents of Sierra Leone, Benin, and Cape Verde met in the Nigerian capital to discuss the results of talks in Abidjan with Ivory Coast's presidential rivals, former prime minister Alassane Ouattara and incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo.

The three leaders briefed the head of the Economic Community of West African States, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan.

"There is still a stalemate," Jonathan announced. "So we will continue with the discussion. But the ECOWAS position as issued in the communique after our meeting still stands."

That ECOWAS communique says Ouattara won November's presidential election and Gbagbo must leave. In their talks Monday with Gbagbo, the heads of state offered him "safety and security" if he gives up power. But Gbagbo says he will not step down and is protecting Ivory Coast against foreign interference.

ECOWAS leaders were joined by the African Union mediator to the Ivorian crisis, Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga. President Jonathan told reporters that Kenya's experience with disputed elections may help resolve an Ivorian standoff that is clearly far from being settled.

"Do not expect that if there is a major crisis in a country you can just jump in one week and that matter is resolved. It takes a lot of international pressure to convince people like that," Jonathan said. "That is why the prime minister of Kenya, you know what happened in Kenya, is also part of the team nominated by the African Union to share that experience with them. But normally such things are not resolved in one week."

ECOWAS is threatening to use military force to oust Mr. Gbagbo. But he is still backed by the national army, so a fight for control of Abidjan would be costly.

With Ouattara unable to leave a resort hotel protected by U.N. peacekeepers, Gbagbo appears determined to prolong this crisis as long as possible in hopes of weakening near-unanimous international support for Ouattara. Gbagbo is using state-run television to portray that support for his rival as evidence of a plot against him.

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