Gbagbo rejects fresh calls to quit

Incumbent president rejects African Union-brokered plan to cede power to rival, imposes "no-fly zone" over Cote d'Ivoire

    Laurent Gbagbo, Cote d'Ivoire's incumbent leader, has rejected an African Union proposal to step down in favour of presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara, Gbagbo's foreign minister has said.

    "We will never accept if the proposal is for President Gbagbo to step down because he is the elected leader of Cote
    d'Ivoire," Alcide Djedje said on Thursday.

    "We just want President Gbagbo to be president because he has been elected according to the laws in the country. This is our stance."

    Later, Pascal Affi N'Guessan, leader of Gbagbo's Ivorian Popular Front, confirmed that the AU proposal to end the
    deadlock after a disputed November election was based on an endorsement of Ouattara.

    "We have invited the panel to reconsider its position," he told reporters at AU talks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

    "If this initiative doesn't come out with irrefutable and pertinent propositions, we fear that the AU, somehow, will
    contribute to what the rebels started in 2002," he warned, referring to a 2002-2003 civil war that split the country in
    two.

    AU confirms Ouattara as president

    N'Guessan did not give further details of the AU proposal, but Ouattara later said that the AU panel, charged with finding a solution to the crisis, confirmed him as the legitimate president.

    "The panel confirmed that I am the president-elect of the Ivorian people. It's the final decision and there's no way to go
    back on that," he said.

    Meanwhile, Gbagbo has banned UN and French peacekeeping aircraft from flying over, or landing in the country.

    It was announced shortly after Ouattara flew to Ethiopia to attend the AU crisis talks meeting.

    Mohammed Adow, Al Jazeera's correspondent in the Ivorian city of Abidjan, said Gbagbo wants to lock Ouattara out of the Ivory Coast when he tries to return home on Friday.

    "But at the moment he doesn't have the credibility to implement his decree banning UN aircraft and French forces from flying over Ivorian airspace because his airforce was decimated by the French forces when they clashed with his forces a few years ago," he said.

    "It’s expected that Ouattara will land in the north where Gbagbo has no control and maybe take a helicopter flight."

    Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, responded by saying the UN mission in Cote d'Ivoire will continue its
    flights inside the country despite the no-fly order.

    A UN spokesman, Martin Nesirky, said Ban "deplores'' the attempts by Gbagbo to ground the world body's aircraft, and considers his order to be "invalid'' and "unacceptable".

    Ouattara was widely seen by the international community as the winner of November 28 elections.

    More than 400 people have been killed since the disputed election.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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