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Gbagbo Government Signals Resistance to AU Panel

Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo (L) shakes hands with Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, an African Union envoy sent to mediate the ongoing Ivorian political standoff, at the presidential palace in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, January 17, 2011

The government of Ivory Coast's incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo, says it will reject any finding that Gbagbo lost the disputed November presidential election.

Gbagbo's foreign minister, Alcide Djedje, spoke to reporters a day after the African Union named a panel of leaders to resolve the Ivory Coast political crisis.

Djedje said the leaders are welcome to visit Ivory Coast, but said the Gbagbo government will not accept their findings unless they follow the Ivorian constitution.

Ivory Coast's constitutional council handed victory to Gbagbo in the November election after the electoral commission named his rival, Alassane Ouattara, as the winner.

The AU, United Nations, and West African bloc ECOWAS all have recognized Ouattara as the victor, although some African leaders have suggested the two men must negotiate a settlement.

Djedje accused former colonial power France of trying to topple the Gbagbo government through pressure from the U.N. and ECOWAS.

ECOWAS has threatened to remove Gbagbo by force if he does not yield power to Ouattara. AU and ECOWAS mediators so far have been unable to convince Gbagbo to step down.

The AU Ivory Coast panel includes the leaders of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania, South Africa, and Tanzania, in addition to the current chiefs of the AU and ECOWAS.

The panel is expected to propose a resolution to the political crisis within one month. Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who heads the AU Peace and Security Council, told reporters that the solution would be legally binding.