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US to AU Panel: Make Clear Gbagbo Must Go

Ivory Coast's presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara at his headquarters in Abidjan, 20 Jan 2011

The United States says the African Union should make it clear to Ivory Coast's incumbent president that he must give up power.

Speaking in Nairobi Thursday, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg said the U.S. believes Mr. Gbagbo's rival, Alassane Ouattara, won the recent election and should be president.

He expressed hope that a panel of African leaders given the task of resolving the Ivorian political crisis will convince Mr. Gbagbo to step down.

Mr. Gbagbo insists that he won the election. He has resisted strong international pressure to yield power.

The AU agreed to form the panel on January 28. Earlier this week, Mr. Gbagbo's office said the incumbent leader will reject any finding suggesting he lost the election.

The AU panel charged with resolving the impasse includes the leaders of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania, South Africa, and Tanzania. Other members are the current chiefs of the African Union and Economic Community of West African States.

Mr. Ouattara continues to work out of a hotel in Abidjan, which is surrounded by pro-Gbago security forces and U.N. peacekeepers who are protecting the building.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.