An official of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said the sub-regional bloc has no option other than to ?activate a legitimate force? to remove Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo from power.
His comment came after African leaders again failed to persuade Mr. Gbagbo to do so in another attempt Monday.
Sonny Ugoh, ECOWAS communications director, told VOA the heads of state and government in the region decided to use military force if the embattled Ivorian leader refuses to step down.
?I believe we are left with no other option, which will rather be unfortunate for the country because this is something that was avoidable. All he (Mr. Gbagbo) needed to do was to leave quietly and save the country from unnecessary trauma and avoidable bloodshed,? said Ugoh.
This was the second time in a week that the presidents of Benin, Cape Verde and Sierra Leone met with Mr. Gbagbo. They were joined Monday by Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
Various officials Monday said the leaders are offering Mr. Gbagbo incentives to step down. The incumbent Ivorian president has so far resisted strong international pressure to give up power.
Supporters of President Gbagbo have criticized ECOWAS for taking sides in the Ivorian crisis. Ugoh said it is unfortunate that Mr. Gbagbo still refuses to step down in spite of the ongoing crisis.
?We have been trying to promote transparency in the electoral process and the acceptance of, or subordination to, civil authority and to promote the value of elections as a basis to determine leadership in West Africa, because we think that they are critical elements for us to make progress by making sure that the votes of the people count,? said Ugoh.
ECOWAS and most other African and some Western countries have recognized former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara as the winner of the November presidential election. Mr. Gbagbo insists he won and has refused to leave office.