AU asks Ivorian rivals to start negotiations in two weeks

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (PANA) - Following the failure of the African Union's mediation efforts in Cote d'Ivoire, the continental organisation has given the key stakeholders two weeks to start negotiations on how to resolve the country's post-election crisis.

If they fail after the stipulated time-line, the African Union (AU) will take further action, in addition to its earlier decision to suspend Cote d'Ivoire's membership of the organisation, according to Ramtane Lamamra, AU's Commissioner for Peace and Security Council.

A High-Level Panel set up by the AU to help find a peaceful solution to the crisis in the West African nation had proposed an inclusive government headed by Alassane Ouattara, the man internationally-acclaimed to have won the country's presidential election last November.

The Panel also said a dignified exit should be worked out for incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo, who has refused to cede power.

But Gbagbo, who sent his Foreign Minister and others to the meeting of the council in Addis Ababa this week, rejected the offer.

“Essentially, Gbagbo is requested to withdraw and the Constitutional Council is asked to swear in Ouattara as president,” Lamamra told a news conference Friday.

While Ouattara initially rejected the proposal that he forms an inclusive government, he later back-pedalled, saying: "I have accepted to do that in the interest of peace."

But Gbagbo’s camp has remained recalcitrant.

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

"What is on offer is power-sharing and the very principle of it is unacceptable," Gbagbo spokesman Ahoua Don Mello said.

Pascal Affi N'Guessan, former Prime Minister and chair of Gbagbo's Ivorian Popular Front – who was also part of the delegation to Addis Ababa – warned that imposing Ouattara on the country would aggravate the violence in the country.

Meanwhile, Ouattara is expected to arrive in Nigeria Friday, apparently to brief President Goodluck Jonathan, who holds the rotational chairmanship of the 15-member ECOWAS, on the outcome of the AU meeting.
-0- PANA OR/SEG 11March2011

11 march 2011 12:06:56

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