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Gbagbo Seeks Recount in Talks on Ivory Coast Stalemate

Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo, right, with Kenya's Prime Minister Raila Odinga, left, Sierra Leone's President Ernest Bai Koroma, center, after offering Laurent Gbagbo an amnesty deal at the presidential palace in Abidjan, 03 Jan 2011

A spokesman for President Laurent Gbagbo says the Ivory Coast leader has asked for a recount of the November presidential election votes.

Spokesman Axoua Don Melo told said Tuesday that Mr. Gbagbo asked ECOWAS leaders for a recount during talks Monday.

The 15-member West African regional bloc confirmed the statement.

The announcement came a few hours after ECOWAS said Mr. Gbagbo agreed to negotiate a "peaceful end" to the country's political crisis without preconditions. It also said he pledged to lift a blockade around the Abidjan hotel where his political rival, Alassane Ouattara, has been holed up for weeks.

The ECOWAS statement said Mr. Ouattara would ensure Mr. Gbagbo a "dignified exit" if the incumbent accepted his loss.

Meanwhile, the United States reiterated Tuesday its position that Mr. Gbagbo must yield power to resolve the crisis. The state department spokesman said a power-sharing agreement would not be an acceptable solution.

The U.S., ECOWAS, the African Union and the United Nations all recognize Mr. Ouattara as the winner of the November election and have called on Mr. Gbagbo to step down.

Presidents from Benin, Cape Verde and Sierra Leone, and Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga met separately with the political rivals in Abidjan.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who heads ECOWAS, said early Tuesday that the Gbagbo and Ouattara camps were in a stalemate.

Mr. Gbagbo insists he won the election and has refused to give up power.

On Monday, Mr. Ouattara told reporters that the time for discussion and diplomacy is over.

ECOWAS has threatened to remove Mr. Gbagbo by force if he does not leave office. The ECOWAS alliance and the United States say they will not accept a power-sharing deal between Mr. Gbagbo and Mr. Ouattara, because the latter is the duly elected president.

In another development Tuesday, members of the Ivory Coast Democratic Party said security forces raided the party's headquarters and accused them of hiding weapons. They say an unknown number of people were injured in the raid.

The party is part of the coalition that supported Mr. Ouattara in the November presidential election.

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