Ouattara guarantees rival's safety

Man recognised by international community as winner of Cote d'Ivoire's presidential poll offers incumbent amnesty.

    The man internationally recognised as the winner of Cote d'Ivoire's recent election has promised amnesty to the incumbent president, who claims he won the run-off poll, if he steps down quickly.

    In an interview published on Friday, Alassane Ouattara told French newspaper Le Figaro that he would guarantee Laurent Gbagbo's safety. 

    "For me, peace has no price. That's why I am willing to declare an amnesty for Gbagbo, as happened in the past for Benin President [Mathieu] Kerekou," said Outtara.

    "But he has to accept rapidly, because he's a person with blood on his hands."

    The UN, the African Union, the 15-nation West African regional group ECOWAS and other world powers have recognised Ouattara as the winner of the country's presidential run-off vote.

    But Gbagbo has refused for more than a month to step down after a decade in power, sparking a political crisis that has left more than 170 people dead.

    'Quick intervention'

    Ouattara's latest comments came after remarks on Thursday in which he said that Gbagbo had to be removed, even if by force.

    Speaking to Al Jazeera's Ama Boateng, Ouattara said Gbagbo has very limited support in Cote d'Ivoire, and would soon leave once military pressure was put on him.

    "As soon as ECOWAS countries begin sending in ... troops, Gbagbo will run away," Ouattara told Al Jazeera.

    "Mercenaries come to do this job for money, they don't come to do this job to be killed.

    "Quick intervention will save lives. The sooner we remove Mr Gbagbo, the better for Cote d'Ivoire, the better for West Africa."

    ECOWAS has threatened to use military force to oust Gbagbo, but it has said doing so would be a last resort and it opened the door to negotiations.

    However, Ouattara has said he is not willing to meet Gbagbo until he cedes power.

    Ouattara has said removing Gbagbo from power would not lead to civil war.

    ECOWAS announced earlier this week that Gbagbo had agreed to further talks and promised to lift a blockade around Ouattara's temporary headquarters.

    Ambassadors expelled

    Gbagbo on Thursday announced that the British and Canadian ambassadors would be expelled. A statement on state television said the action was being taken as a reciprocal measure.

    The UK and Canada are among the nations who have expelled ambassadors appointed by Gbagbo in order to replace them with diplomats chosen by Outtara.

    Meanwhile, the UN is calling for up to 2,000 peacekeepers to bolster existing forces in Cote d'Ivoire.

    The additional troops would reinforce the 9,800-strong UN force currently in the West African country, Alain Le Roy, the UN peacekeeping undersecretary-general, said on Wednesday.

    He also said the UN would make a formal request for the troops from the 15-nation Security Council next week, for deployment within weeks.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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