U.S. President Barack Obama says Ivory Coast's defiant leader, Laurent Gbagbo, must step down from power immediately to prevent further bloodshed and end the violence that has gripped the country.
Mr. Obama said in a statement Tuesday that he strongly supports actions by U.N. peacekeepers and French forces, both of whom attacked Gbagbo targets on Monday with the stated goal of protecting civilians.
The West African bloc ECOWAS promised a "safe and dignified exit" for Mr. Gbagbo if he yields power to Alassane Ouattara, recognized by most countries as the true winner of last November's Ivory Coast presidential election.
In Ethiopia, the head of the African Union's Peace and Security Council said Mr. Gbagbo may be willing to leave office and accept Mr. Ouattara as president. The official, Ramtane Lamamra, said AU leaders are ready to fly to Abidjan to help work out a transition of power.
The top U.S. diplomat on African affairs, Johnnie Carson, said Tuesday in Washington that an earlier U.S. offer to give Mr. Gbagbo a safe haven in the United States is no longer on the table because he said the incumbent president has committed serious human rights violations.
Carson also said that what is happening in Ivory Coast is a real test case for democracy not only in Ivory Coast but throughout Africa.
For more than three months, Mr. Gbagbo has resisted intense pressure from the AU, ECOWAS, and the United Nations to leave office. In the background of Tuesday's diplomatic developments, pro-Ouattara forces besieged Mr. Gbagbo's home in Abidjan.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.