Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga (L) says that force is a "last resort" to solve Cote d’Ivoire's crisis [EPA]

Kenyan Prime Minister has said that force was a "last resort" to solve Cote d’Ivoire's crisis, but warned that time was running out for a peaceful settlement.

"The window for a peaceful negotiation is closing very fast," Raila Odinga told reporters on returning to Kenya on Friday after leading a failed African Union mediation bid.

"We will continue to walk the extra mile to find a peaceful resolution... The use of legitimate force is there and we will say that it is the ultimate resort, the very last resort if everything else has failed," he added.

Ivorian incumbent Laurent Gbagbo has defied calls to quit after UN-certified results showed him the loser of a November 28 election, prolonging a stand-off with rival Alassane Ouattara.

AU disunity

There is little appetite among African nations for armed intervention that could cause more bloodshed in a country where 260 have already died in violence linked to the deadlock.  Nations such as Ghana say they will not offer troops.

Leaders of the 53-state African Union will discuss next steps at a summit at the end of the month, and signs are emerging of cracks in an official AU line insisting that Gbagbo immediately make way for Ouattara to take power.

Odinga made a detour to Angola and South Africa on the way back to Kenya, holding talks with the leadership of two states seen as potential weak points in AU unity.

South African President Jacob Zuma said there were "some discrepancies" in the election result and dismissed a proposal by diplomats for Gbagbo to go into exile.

Odinga said a recount, suggested by Gbagbo, would be pointless. "I told Gbagbo and the two presidents that it is an exercise in futility. Even if you are to open the ballot boxes and do a recount, no one would believe you," he said.

UN complains

Meanwhile, the United Nations denounced as unacceptable on Friday an order to Cote d’Ivoire’s armed forces loyal to Gbagbo to stop and search UN peacekeeping vehicles in the West African country.

Ivorian army spokesman Colonel Babri Gohourou said earlier on state television that the country's armed forces were "under instruction to stop and search vehicles marked with a 'UN' in circulation."

"I want to make clear that the call of the Ivorian defense and security forces loyal to Mr. Gbagbo to stop and search United Nations vehicles is a serious violation of the status of forces agreement and Security Council Resolution 1962," UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said.

"It is therefore unacceptable," Nesirky told a regular news briefing.

Nesirky also condemned what he said was continuing use of Ivorian state broadcaster RTI to spread false information about the United Nations and UNOCI, as well as continued obstruction of "legitimate actions" by the peacekeeping mission.

UN patrols trying to reach areas where clashes have been reported have repeatedly been blocked by pro-Gbagbo forces and have also been prevented from going to reported sites of mass graves, UN officials say.

Nesirky repeated previous UN warnings that attacks on civilians or international peacekeepers were crimes under international law, and those who carried them out "will be held responsible." He did not elaborate.

Source: Agencies