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African Union, ECOWAS to Meet on Ivory Coast Crisis

Residents of the Abobo district carry their belongings as they flee the neighborhood which has become a hub for street violence in the nation's ongoing political standoff, in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, February 28, 2011

A leading member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) says senior officials of his organization are scheduled to meet with an African Union High-Level Panel on Ivory Coast in Mauritania’s capital, Nouakchott, Friday.

The meeting is aimed at resolving the ongoing crisis in the West African nation. Sonny Ugoh, communications director of the sub-regional body, says ECOWAS is deeply concerned about the ongoing violent clashes between supporters of U.N. recognized election winner Alassane Ouattara and embattled President Laurent Gbagbo.

“The High-Level-Panel will be meeting today, Friday, in Nouakchott to look at some proposals that are on the table in relation to how to resolve the crisis in Cote d’Ivoire through dialogue,” said Ugoh.

“There are three options on the table and we hope that, since the two parties have indicated that they are amenable to the intervention of the High-Level Panel and will be willing to go by whatever the outcome is of their proposal, there is the possibility of us resolving the problem, hopefully as early as next week.”

This came after the Africa Union’s Peace and Security Council extended the mandate of the continental body’s High-Level Panel for a month to help resolve the Ivorian crisis.

Ugoh calls on supporters of the rival parties to end the violence.

“It’s just unfortunate that it has come to this. Of course, we have always feared that a delay in resolving this matter would eventually lead to the kind of situation that we have now the prospect of a civil war. Obviously, this will manifest itself in a cost in terms of human life,” said Ugoh.

“We are hoping that those who are involved in this unfortunate situation of killing and all that will stop so that we can give an opportunity for the dialogue going on in Nouakchott. I believe that dialogue is still the best opportunity for us to resolve it, and killing of unfortunate people will not, in any way, resolve the problem in Cote d’Ivoire.”

Ugoh says ECOWAS and the African Union High-Level Panel meeting is yet another attempt to resolve the crisis in Ivory Coast.

Meanwhile, witnesses in Ivory Coast say troops loyal to incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo Thursday killed at least seven women during a demonstration calling for him to step down.

The attack took place Thursday during a women's demonstration in Abobo, a neighborhood of the country's largest city, Abidjan. Residents say uniformed troops pulled up to the scene in armored vehicles and opened fire on the crowd.

U.N. officials say fighting in Abobo has killed at least 26 people since last week. They say another 200,000 have fled the district.

Most residents in Abobo support Ouattara. Gbagbo has refused to yield power despite intense international pressure to do so.