Gambian President-elect Adama Barrow met Saturday in Mali with world leaders trying to arrange a peaceful outcome of the West African country's leadership crisis.
Barrow was officially declared the winner of last month's election by a slim margin. Yahya Jammeh, who has been power in Gambia since a coup in 1994, originally accepted defeat but reversed himself and filed suit to challenge the results, citing voting irregularities.
The presidents of France and Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and Francois Hollande, both called on Jammeh to step down when his current five-year term of office ends during the coming week.
Jammeh, however, has said he intends to remain in office until Gambia's Supreme Court rules on his legal challenge to results of the December 1 vote. Informed observers in Banjul estimate it could take the court months to rule.
Barrow, attending the annual France-Africa summit in Bamako, said he was continuing to plan for his inauguration on Thursday.
West African regional bloc ECOWAS has placed its military force on standby to take action if Jammeh does not step down as scheduled.
Hollande said in Mali that Gambia's elections were credible and transparent, so the results "must be respected."
'De facto recognition'
Mali's Keita said the reception Barrow was given at the France-Africa summit was "de facto recognition" of his legitimacy as Gambia's head of state. "I dare to hope that proverbial African wisdom will inspire our brother Yahya" to step down Thursday, he added.
Under Jammeh, the Gambian government has been accused of numerous rights abuses, including arbitrary arrests, torture and forced disappearances.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and other regional leaders traveled to Banjul on Friday to offer Jammeh asylum if he steps down peacefully, but no deal was reached.
Speaking about the ECOWAS high-level mission to the Gambian capital, the head of the U.N.'s office for West Africa and the Sahel, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, told the Security Council on Friday that there should be "no doubt about the determination of ECOWAS to use all necessary means, including force, to have the will of the Gambian people upheld."