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Ivory Coast Election Winner Rejects Incumbents' Call for International Review

A picture of a TV screen shows Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo delivering a speech in which he insists he remains the country's true president, 21 Dec 2010
A picture of a TV screen shows Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo delivering a speech in which he insists he remains the country's true president, 21 Dec 2010

Ivory Coast's U.N.-endorsed presidential-election winner Alassane Ouattara has rejected calls by incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo for an international review of the country's political crisis, following last month's disputed election.

In what was his first televised speech since last month's disputed election, Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo said Tuesday he is open to dialogue, though analysts say any kind of power-sharing agreement is not a viable option for Ivory Coast.

Mr. Gbagbo says he does not want to see the blood of even one Ivorian spilled. He says he does not want a war in Ivory Coast that could impact neighboring countries. He says he is ready to welcome an international committee to evaluate the post-electoral crisis and re-examine election results.

He adds this committee will be led by a representative from the African Union and include members of ECOWAS, the West African Central Bank, the Arab League, the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, Russia and China.

But a spokesman for Alassane Ouattara dismissed the offer as a delay tactic, and it is unlikely that many foreign powers named will go along with the proposal, as most of them have already called for Mr. Gbagbo to stand down.

Speaking on state television, Mr. Gbagbo says the international community has based its support of Mr. Ouattara on what the incumbent says were worthless electoral commission results.

He says the international community has declared war on Ivory Coast. He says that is not acceptable, and will not be allowed.

The electoral commission said Mr. Ouattara won the election with 54 percent of the votes. But Ivory Coast's constitutional court, which is led by a Gbagbo ally, annulled 10 percent of the ballots as fraudulent and proclaimed Mr. Gbagbo the winner with 51 percent.

Since then, the country has been stuck in a tense political showdown that many, including U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, say they fear could re-ignite a 2002-2003 civil war that split the country between a rebel-held north and a government-held south. The United Nations says street violence since the election has killed more than 50 people.

Speaking to journalists after Mr. Gbagbo's speech, U.N. peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy called for Gbagbo loyalists to stop trying to, as he said, "strangle or provoke" the U.N. force, which was attacked and forced to return fire on Saturday.

"Mr. Gbagbo has been very clear, he wants no violence, no more blood, so all the forces loyal to him should stop immediately provocation, instigating violence, violation of human rights, and provoking the UNOCI mission," said LeRoy. "We have a mandate to fulfill and we will fulfill that mandate."

The United Nations also confirmed the Gbagbo camp had recruited mercenaries, including former Liberian combatants, to target certain groups.

The U.N. Security Council says its 10,000-member peacekeeping force will remain in Ivory Coast, despite Mr. Gbabgo's demands that U.N. and French peacekeepers withdraw. Mr. Gbagbo's supporters accuse foreigners of threatening the country's sovereignty and U.N. forces of supporting Mr. Ouattara.

The U.N. force is currently protecting the Abidjan hotel serving as Mr. Ouattara's headquarters, and the U.N. mission condemns what it says are efforts to blockade its supplies.

The United States and the European Union are imposing travel sanctions on Mr. Gbagbo and his close allies and say they will continue to increase pressure on Mr. Gbagbo until he steps down.