For­mer South African leader Mbeki ends Ivory Coast poll row talks with­out deal

The Pak Banker - - 6international -

ABID­JAN: For­mer South African leader Thabo Mbeki failed on Mon­day to set­tle an elec­tion row be­tween Ivory Coast's pres­i­den­tial claimant Alas­sane Ou­at­tara and in­cum­bent Lau­rent Gbagbo, but ap­pealed to both for a peace­ful so­lu­tion.

Mbeki had hoped to defuse a power strug­gle en­velop­ing the coun­try since an elec­tion which the elec­toral com­mis­sion and in­ter­na­tional ob­servers say Ou­at­tara won-a de­ci­sion re­versed by the Con­sti­tu­tional Coun­cil, backed by the armed forces chief.

Gbagbo re­fused to con­cede de­feat af­ter the elec­tion com­mis­sion said the Novem­ber 28 poll, meant to re­unite the re­gion's for­mer eco­nomic pow­er­house af­ter a 2002-03 civil war, had been won by Ou­at­tara with 54.1 per­cent of the vote.

An­a­lysts warned the dis­pute could now pit the army against pro-Ou­at­tara rebels, who told Reuters they would de­fend them­selves against any at­tack, or even di­vide the army it­self.

"The African Union is very keen that peace can be sus­tained and ev­ery ef­fort should be made to en­sure this tran­si­tion to democ­racy suc­ceeds," Mbeki told jour­nal­ists at Gbagbo's house be­fore leav­ing, adding he would file a re­port to the union.

"Cote D'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) needs peace and needs democ­racy ... We in­deed hope that the lead­er­ship of this coun­try will do all that it can to en­sure peace is main­tained."

The United Na­tions is tem­po­rar­ily mov­ing 460 nonessen­tial staff from its mis­sion in Ivory Coast out of the coun­try be­cause of se­cu­rity con­cerns, a spokesman in New York said.

Ou­at­tara's team at the Golf Ho­tel, where he is holed up un­der U.N. pro­tec­tion, held its first 'coun­cil of min­is­ters'.

"Ev­ery­thing ex­cept the de­par­ture of the old pres­i­dent is on the ta­ble for ne­go­ti­a­tion," said Pa­trick Achi, Ou­at­tara's spokesman, adding that he thought the cri­sis could be re­solved in­ter­nally, rather than through in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions.

Small groups of Ou­at­tara sup­port­ers burned tires and blocked roads in Abid­jan on Mon­day as po­lice in riot gear pa­trolled the streets. There were no re­ports of vi­o­lence. At least 10 peo­ple were killed in clashes in the pre­vi­ous two weeks.

The mil­i­tary ex­tended a cur­few for an ex­tra week, un­til Sun­day, but re­laxed the hours to 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.

The po­lit­i­cal deadlock gripped the world's top co­coa grower af­ter the Con­sti­tu­tional Coun­cil-run by a Gbagbo allyscrapped hun­dreds of thou­sands of votes from Ou­at­tara strongholds, re­vers­ing pro­vi­sional re­sults giv­ing him vic­tory.

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama has backed Ou­at­tara, lead­ing calls from the United Na­tions, France, the Euro­pean Union, the African Union and West African bloc ECOWAS on Gbagbo to ac­cept the elec­tion com­mis­sion rul­ing. ECOWAS lead­ers are due to hold an emer­gency sum­mit on Ivory Coast on Tues­day.

Gbagbo has scorned the in­ter­na­tional re­jec­tion as an af­front to Ivo­rian sovereignty and has threat­ened to ex­pel the U.N. Ivory Coast en­voy for in­ter­fer­ence in in­ter­nal af­fairs.

Cit­ing a "break­down of gov­er­nance," the World Bank and the African Devel­op­ment Bank said they would re­assess aid.

Ou­at­tara has named Gbagbo's for­mer fi­nance min­is­ter, Charles Koffi Dibby, to his cabi­net, a move which would strip Gbagbo of an of­fi­cial praised for his han­dling of debt talks. Dibby was not avail­able to con­firm he had switched sides.

The World Bank tied $3 bil­lion of ex­ter­nal debt, es­ti­mated to to­tal $12.5 bil­lion, to smooth elec­tions. But Gbagbo's hand on the econ­omy is strength­ened by co­coa and oil rev­enues.

Bench­mark ICE co­coa fu­tures traded at a four-month high of $3,028 a met­ric ton on Mon­day on fears of sup­ply dis­rup­tions. -Ap

PY­ONGYANG: North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, cen­ter, vis­its the the Kim Chaek Iron and Steel Com­plex in North Ham­gy­ong Prov­ince, North Korea. -Ap

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