The United States is calling for incumbent Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo to respect the outcome of last month's election, which the State Department says was clearly won by challenger Alassane Ouattara. U.S. officials are concerned about the prospect of violence if the west African country's political standoff continues.
Though the comments here stopped short of an outright call for President Gbagbo to step aside, the State Department says the election was clearly won by challenger Ouattara and that Mr. Gbagbo should make the "right choice" in the best interests of his country.
The comments here were the most extensive from the United States thus far on the tense political stalemate that has gripped Ivory Coast since the November 28 voting.
In results endorsed by the United Nations, the country's independent election commission gave Mr. Ouattara an outright victory with 54 percent of the vote.
But Mr. Gbagbo, who has run the country for a decade, has refused to yield, saying a pro-government constitutional council annulled enough ballots to hand him a slim victory.
U.S. President Barack Obama, in a statement last week, congratulated Mr. Ouattara on his victory and urged all parties including Mr. Gbagbo to acknowledge and respect the result.
At a news briefing, State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley said Mr. Gbagbo confronts a decision whether to take his country on a path toward isolation or the preservation of democracy, and that the United States hopes he "makes the right choice" in the coming days.
"Cote d'Ivoire [Ivory Coast] had an election. The international community judged the election as free and fair. The result was clear, which is a victory for the challenger in the election. It is time for President Gbagbo to recognize the will of the people of Cote d'Ivoire and embark on a peaceful transition. The United States is calling on the president to respect the will, and a clear decisive victory by Mr. Ouattra," he said.
Both men have declared themselves president and named new prime ministers, and each has the support of rival armed forces.
Spokesman Crowley said the United States is obviously concerned about the risk of violence if the Gbagbo government "makes the wrong choices."
He said the U.S. embassy in Abidjan is engaged with civil society groups and others to try to keep the situation calm, amid mediation efforts by the African Union and the West African regional group ECOWAS.