|Gbagbo has warned Ouattara not to depend on foreign troops to put him in power by force [AFP]
Supporters of the Ivorian incumbent president who were called on to remove his rival Alassane Ouattara from the Golf Hotel failed to meet the January 1 deadline. The hotel is guarded by combat-ready UN troops.
Meanwhile, a top ally of Ouattara, widely recognised as Cote d'Ivoire's president, has said that Laurent Gbagbo is using stalling tactics to stay in power and urged the international community to intervene with "legitimate force'' to remove him.
Ouattara's Prime Minister, Guillaume Soro, told The Associated Press news agency on Saturday that Gbagbo would only leave power by force and that the international community will have to intervene to protect democracy in Africa.
He dismissed Gbagbo's offer to invite an international investigation into the country as a delay tactic.
"It was this same type of distracting proposition that he used to hold on for five years without an election,'' Soro said. "Enough is enough. Mr Gbagbo must leave power."
Gbagbo has warned Ouattara not to depend on foreign troops to and has repeated calls for talks to end the political stand-off.
"You should not count on foreign armies to come and make him (Ouattara) president," he said in an interview broadcast on state television on Saturday.
"I therefore extend my hand so we can talk," he said.
Gbagbo repeated an offer for a recount, which Ouattara's camp rejects.
Goodluck Jonathan, the Nigerian president, who also holds the rotating presidency of ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States, is due in Abidjan on Monday to negotiate Gbagbo's departure.
ECOWAS threatened to use military force to remove Gbagbo if he doesn't leave freely, but failed to persuade him to go into exile when its first delegation came to Cote d'Ivoire on Monday.
The UN has said the volatile West African nation, once divided in two, faces a real risk of return to civil war, but Soro said this war has already begun.
"In any country that records more than 200 dead in five days, as the UN has certified, it's war. When a country experiences a massive population flight of the population - more than 20,000 Ivoirians who leave their country to seek refuge in a country like Liberia - it's war," he said.
Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, spoke with Ouattara by telephone and assured him that the international community was working to try to end the stalemate in Cote d'Ivoire.
Ban said he appreciated "the restraint and patience being shown even in the face of provocative acts'' and reaffirmed the United Nations' "principled and unwavering position on upholding the election outcome'' that should have put Ouattara in office.
Human rights violations
The secretary-general also expressed concern about reports of human rights violations and pledge that UN security forces would do their best to document abuses and prevent further atrocities.
Human rights groups accuse incumbent Gbagbo's security forces of abducting and killing political opponents, though Gbagbo allies deny the allegations and say some of the victims were security forces killed by protesters.
The UN has confirmed at least 173 deaths.
Gbagbo gave an address late on Friday on state television in which he accused the international community of mounting a coup d'etat to oust him and said Ivorians were being subjected to international hostility.
"No one has the right to call on foreign armies to invade his country,'' Gbagbo said. "Our greatest duty to our country is to defend it from foreign attack."
The United Nations had been invited by all parties to certify the results of the November 28 presidential runoff vote. The UN declared Ouattara the winner, endorsing the announcement by the country's electoral commission.
But Gbagbo has refused to step aside now for more than a month, defying international condemnation and growing calls for his ouster.
The European Union said late Friday that it had approved sanctions on 59 more people, in addition to 19 already sanctioned last week including Gbagbo and his wife.
Gbagbo and about 30 of his allies also face US travel sanctions, though such measures have typically failed to reverse illegal power grabs in Africa in the past.
West African leaders have said they are prepared to use military force to push Gbagbo out, but are giving negotiations more time for now.
For many, the credibility of the international community is at stake if it is unable to ensure that Ouattara takes power.
Gbagbo points to Cote d'Ivoire's constitutional council, which declared him president after throwing out more than half a million votes from Ouattara strongholds. The council invalidated election results in those areas, citing violence and intimidation directed at Gbagbo supporters.
The top UN envoy in Cote d'Ivoire has disputed that assessment.