AU envoy in Abidjan for crisis talk

African Union envoy relaunches negotiations aimed at convincing Laurent Gbagbo to step down as president.

    The UN mission in Cote d'Ivoire has increasingly been targeted amid the country's political turmoil [Reuters]

    Raila Odinga, Kenya's prime minister, has travelled to Cote d'Ivoire in a fresh effort to secure a peaceful end to the political crisis there.

    Odinga, an envoy for the African Union (AU), arrived at the presidential palace in Abidjan, the Ivorian capital, on Monday where he hopes to convince Laurent Gbagbo, Cote d'Ivoire's incumbent president, to step down.

    Gbagbo refuses to relinquish the country's presidency amid an electoral dispute with Alassane Ouattara, his main election rival who international powers believe won the polls.

    Both Gbagbo and Ouattara took the oath as president following the November elections.

    Ahead of his arrival, Odinga described his latest mission as: "Another trial to see if we can make a peaceful resolution to the crisis ... We will see his [Gbagbo's] reaction to the new peace offer we will make to him."

    He declined to give details of the new offer.

    Odinga's visit marks the fifth time in as many weeks that an African leader has come to speak to the defiant Gbagbo.

    After talks with Gbagbo, Odinga was to head to the Golf Hotel resort where Ouattara's camp is protected by United Nations peacekeepers and northern former rebels.

    Gbagbo's army is besieging the camp and in response Ouattara's followers have called for a new general strike from Tuesday.

    A previous general strike called by Ouattara's camp on December 27 failed to build momentum, with much of the population unable to sacrifice a day's earnings.

    Shots fired

    The Reuters news agency on Monday reported that UN troops had fired in the air in a bid to disperse Gbagbo's supporters from around Ouattara's headquarters. Police also fired in the air.

    Three civilians were reported injured in the incident.

    Odinga's first trip to Abidjan since being appointed as mediator ended on January 5 with little tangible progress after Gbagbo failed to make good on promises that mediators said he had made.

    The AU and the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have struggled to mediate the crisis, warning military action would be a "last resort".

    Odinga said he would likely travel on to other countries for talks on the crisis, including Ghana, Angola, Burkina Faso and his own Kenya.

    He did not say why those countries would be visited.

    Ghana, an ECOWAS member, has ruled out sending troops to Ivory Coast, while Angola has been one of the few countries to show support for Gbagbo.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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