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Africa
Obasanjo makes Cote d'Ivoire visit
Former Nigerian president to deliver tough message to incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo, in another bid to end crisis.
Last Modified: 09 Jan 2011 09:48 GMT

Former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo has made an unannounced visit to Cote d'Ivoire in yet another bid to convince incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo to step down following a disputed election.

Obasanjo met both Gbagbo and his rival Alassane Ouattara separately on Saturday and was to meet the leaders again on Sunday, Ali Coulibaly, an Ouattara spokesman said.

Details of their talks were not immediately available.

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 November 28 presidential run-off vote.

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

A close adviser to Ouattara said Obasanjo's visit is meant to convey a message from the government of Nigeria, whose president is the current chair of ECOWAS. The bloc is scheduled to meet in the coming days to decide whether or not to move forward with plans to oust Gbagbo by force.

The crisis has sparked an exodus of refugees into neighbouring Liberia, where the UN says some 20,000 Ivorians have already fled. Some refugees have told Al Jazeera that they were forced to leave their homes by pro-Ouattara rebels because they had voted for Gbagbo in the election.

Continuing crisis

Gbagbo has claimed victory in the election based on the constitutional court cancelling hundreds of thousands of votes from Ouattara strongholds, alleging voter fraud.

International observers, however, have declared that no such fraud took place, and that Ouattara was therefore the winner of the poll.

Ouattara remains confined to the Golf Hotel, where he set up his headquarters following the poll. The Ivorian military, still loyal to Gbagbo, has blockaded the compound, and the only way for diplomats, reporters and provisions to enter or leave is via UN helicopter.

So far, four African presidents have met with Gbagbo for talks regarding his leaving office, but all attempts at mediation appear to have failed.

Gbagbo has also refused to take phone calls from US President Barack Obama, according to the US State department.

Experts say the only way to make him leave may be through force, but observers question whether the military arm of ECOWAS has the manpower and sophistication to carry out a so-called "decapitation strike".

A second issue is whether ECOWAS will go ahead with a move that could lead to mass casualties.

Source:
Agencies
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