Attack on Ivorian leader's bunker repelled

Fighting raged for a third consecutive day in Abidjan as Alassane Ouattara's forces tried to unseat Laurent Gbagbo.

    Kofi Annan, the former UN secretary-general, has called for Gbagbo to step down [Al Jazeera]

    Laurent Gbagbo, the incumbent president of Cote d'ivoire, is still holding out in a bunker as fierce battles continue in Abidjan.

    The Associated Press news agency reported on Thursday that fighters had laid siege to Gbagbo while negotiators continued to try coax him out.

    Earlier on Wednesday, negotiations led by the UN and France aimed at securing the departure of Gbagbo had failed according to Alain Juppe, the French foreign minister.

    "The negotiations which were carried out for hours yesterday between the entourage of Laurent Gbagbo and Ivorian authorities have failed because of Gbagbo's intransigence," Juppe told the French parliament.

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    It was not clear if Juppe was simply formally filling them in on earlier events, or if they have tried again to coax Gbagbo out of his bunker.

    Earlier in the day, forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara, the president-elect, stormed the residence where Gbagbo is hunkered down.

    A spokesman for Ouattara's fighters, Yves Doumbia, said their forces breached the gates of the ruler's compound, only to be repelled by heavy arms fire.

    "We retreated but we are preparing for a second assault," Doumbia said.
    Patrick Achi, spokesman for Ouattara's parallel government, said troops had been ordered not to kill Gbagbo.

    "I'm not a kamikaze. I love life. My voice is not the voice of a martyr, no, no, no, I'm not looking for death. It's not my aim to die"

    Laurent Gbagbo,
    Cote d'Ivoire's incumbent leader

    "Alassane Ouattara has given formal instructions that Gbagbo is to be kept alive because we want to bring him to justice," he said.

    Issiaka Konate, the UK representative for Ouattara's party, the Rally for Republicans, told Al Jazeera that they have "not captured Gbagbo yet".

    "The situation is that he is inside a bunker that has the capacity to house a few hundred people, so we are not sure how many he has with him," he said. 

    "Gbagbo is still hiding and President Ouattara wants him seized and alive."

    The news came hours after Edouard Guillaud, the French armed forces chief, said on Wednesday that Gbagbo's departure would come in "a matter of hours".

    South Africa, Togo and Angola are possible safe havens for Gbagbo should he negotiate an exit from his West African country, African Union (AU) sources said on Wednesday.

    'Fierce assault'

    Gbagbo, meanwhile, said it was not his "aim to die" fighting Ouattara's forces and called for direct talks with his rival.

    "I'm not a kamikaze. I love life. My voice is not the voice of a martyr, no, no, no, I'm not looking for death. It's not my aim to die," Gbagbo, speaking from his residence on Tuesday, told the French TV channel LCI.

    "For peace to return to Ivory Coast, I and Ouattara, the two of us, have to talk."

    Gbagbo's residence was stormed by forces loyal to rival Ouattara on Wednesday [Al Jazeera]

    Al Jazeera's Haru Mutasa, reporting from Bassam near Abidjan, said Wednesday's attack followed Gbagbo's refusal to "sign a document" in which he had to say he was ready to step down.

    "Gbagbo refused. That infuriated the Ouattara camp and then, it seems, they tried to go forward and try to capture him," she said.

    The UN and France, the former colonial master with more than 1,000 troops in Cote d'Ivoire, had said Gbagbo's departure was being negotiated following a fierce assault by Ouattara's forces.

    Juppe said the "only thing left to negotiate" were the conditions of Gbagbo's departure.

    "We have asked the United Nations to guarantee his physical security and that of his family," Juppe had told France Info radio on Wednesday.

    "This stubbornness is absurd. Gbagbo has no other solution anymore. Everybody has dropped him." 

    'Hunkered in a bunker'

    Gbagbo told LCI his army had called for a ceasefire after their weaponry was destroyed by the French and UN air strikes, said diplomats.

    He reiterated that he considered himself the winner of the election, although the AU and ECOWAS, the west African regional bloc, both endorsed Ouattara.

    Bayeto and Konate provide perspectives from their side of the political divide in Cote d'Ivoire [Al Jazeera]

    Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland, reporting from Paris, said there was no word from the foreign ministry on the fate of Gbagbo.

    "They [foreign ministry officials] have not been able to give us anything further and all we know now is Gbagbo is hunkered down in a bunker," she said.

    "The French ... were trying to find a negotiated way out of this crisis.

    "There were talks involving two generals loyal to Gbagbo, but it is quite clear now that talking has past and it looks as though this crisis may indeed be resolved by military force after all."

    Our correspondent said there was no complete "consensus" by the Ivorian community in Paris about developments in Cote d'Ivoire.

    She said some Ivorians in French capital were elated at the news of Ggabo's ouster while others protested against France's intervention in Cote d'Ivoire's internal affairs.

    More than 100 Gbagbo supporters protested peacefully outside the National Assembly against France's military action in Cote d'Ivoire.

    'Playing for time'

    One of the protesters hoisted a picture of Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, and the words, "Sarko out of Ivory Coast". Others chanted, "Sarkozy murderer!"

    YJ Choi, UN special representative for Cote d'Ivoire,
    told Al Jazeera: 'The war is over'

    The November election in the world's top cocoa producing nation was meant to end a 2002-2003 civil war, but Gbagbo's refusal to cede power plunged the country into a violent political standoff that has killed over 1,500 people.

    "I think he's playing for time,'' said a senior diplomat who has closely followed events and spoke on condition of anonymity because he had not been cleared to speak to the press.

    "His aim is always to buy himself just one more day."

    Choi Young-jin, the UN envoy in Cote d'Ivoire, said by telephone that Gbagbo's surrender was "imminent".

    "He accepted [the] principle of accepting the results of the election, so he doesn't have many cards in his hands," Choi told the Associated Press Television News.

    "The key element they are negotiating is where Mr Gbagbo would go."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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