Ouattara forces storm Gbagbo residence

Pro-Ouattara forces ordered not to kill Laurent Gbagbo, still in bunker after fierce assault on his presidential palace.

    Gbagbo declared in an interview with French television that Ouattara "did not win the elections" [Al Jazeera] 

    Forces loyal to Cote d'Ivoire's internationally recognised leader Alassane Ouattara have stormed the residence where his rival and incumbent president is holed up, a spokesman has said.
    "Yes they [Ouattara forces] are in the process of entering the residence to seize [Laurent] Gbagbo, they have not taken him yet, but they are in the process; they are in the building," Affousy Bamba told the Reuters news agency on Wednesday.

    Patrick Achi, another spokesman for Ouattara's parallel government, said troops had been ordered not to kill Gbagbo.

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

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

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    Earlier, Gbagbo said it was not his "aim to die" fighting Ouattara 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," he added.

    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 departure was being negotiated following a fierce assault by Ouattara's forces.

    Alain Juppe, the French foreign minister, 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 ... " Alain Juppe told France Info radio on Wednesday.

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

    After the evening newscast on Tuesday, Ouattara's private TV station showed the movie "Downfall", which traces the last days of Nazi Germany from inside Adolf Hitler's bunker.

    "He is holed up in the bunker in his residence so we will continue with the United Nations, which is handling that, to put pressure on him so he accepts to acknowledge the reality: There is only one legal and legitimate president today, it is Alassane Ouattara and I hope that persuasion will win and that we will avoid having to resume the military operations," said Juppe.

    Gbagbo had denied he was willing to surrender and rejected demands he recognise Ouattara as the winner of last November's presidential runoff in the west African nation.

    'Hunkered in a bunker'

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

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

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

    Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland in 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 mlitary 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.

    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.

    'Le Boulanger'

    Veteran observers of Cote d'Ivoire say the turn of events could have been taken from a biography of Gbagbo.

    In Abidjan, he has long been called 'Le Boulanger', French for The Baker, because he rolls people in flour, a reference to a popular expression meaning to manipulate and deceive others.

    He was given so many extensions that people here have lost count of how many times the poll was rescheduled.

    "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 United Nations 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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