Malawi president meets rival claimants of Ivorian presidency

Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire (PANA) – Malawi’s president and chairman of the African Union (AU), Bingu wa Mutharika, made a surprise visit to Abidjan on Tuesday where he met the two rival claimants of the Ivorian presidency as diplomatic efforts went up one gear to avoid a military option to resolve the crisis.

Mutharika, who arrived in the main Ivorian city of Abidjan in his capacity as Malawi’s president and not chairman of the AU, met incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo and later moved to the Gulf Hotel where his rival Alassane Ouattara has been holed up for about two months.

There are no details of the discussions.

The Malawi president said he was in Abidjan to discuss the post-electoral crisis that had split the country down the middle after the disputed 28 November, 2010 presidential run-off election being claimed by Gbagbo and  Ouattara.

Ouattara was proclaimed president by the Independent Electoral Commission but the Constitutional Commission reversed the verdict after disqualifying hundreds of thousands of votes from Ouattara's northern stronghold.

The international community recognises Ouattara and has been putting pressure on Gbagbo to leave office, but he has so far refused.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) says it will intervene militarily to remove Gbagbo from power.

The Ivorian crisis will be high on the agenda of the AU summit scheduled for 30 and 31 January in Addis Ababa.
-0- PANA GB/OG/MSA/MA 25Jan2011

25 january 2011 21:05:22

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