Neigh­bors put Ivory Coast mil­i­tary op­tion on hold

The Pak Banker - - 6i Nternational -

ABID­JAN: West African lead­ers blinked in their show­down with Lau­rent Gbagbo, tak­ing a mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion off the ta­ble for now so that ne­go­ti­a­tions can con­tinue with the in­cum­bent leader who re­fuses to hand over power in Ivory Coast.

Even as the 15-nation re­gional bloc ECOWAS gave Gbagbo more time, though, de­fense of­fi­cials from mem­ber states gath­ered in Nige­ria.

ECOWAS had vowed to use force to wrest Gbagbo from the pres­i­den­tial palace if he did not agree on Tues­day to step aside for Alas­sane Ou­at­tara, the in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized win­ner of last month's elec­tion. The pres­i­dents of Sierra Leone, Benin and Cape Verde de­liv­ered the ul­ti­ma­tum on ECOWAS' be­half, hop­ing to es­cort Gbagbo into ex­ile. He re­fused to budge.

A Ou­at­tara ad­viser, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause of the sen­si­tiv­ity of the mat­ter, said that Gbagbo de­manded a vote re­count dur­ing the ne­go­ti­a­tions with the vis­it­ing del­e­ga­tion and also wants amnesty if he leaves of­fice. The United Na­tions has ac­cused his se­cu­rity forces of be­ing be­hind hun­dreds of ar­rests, and dozens of cases of tor­ture and dis­ap­pear­ance, an al­le­ga­tion his ad­vis­ers deny.

The ECOWAS del­e­ga­tion re­ported Wed­nes­day on its trip to Abid­jan, and Nige­rian Pres­i­dent Good­luck Jonathan said the lead­ers would re­turn to Ivory Coast on Mon­day.

"When­ever there is a dis­pute, when­ever there is dis­agree­ment, it is di­a­logue that will solve is­sues," Jonathan said in the Nige­rian cap­i­tal, Abuja, where ECOWAS is based. "The di­a­logue is on. They are en­cour­ag­ing us to go back."

The United Na­tions de­clared Gbagbo the loser of the pres­i­den­tial runoff vote held on Nov. 28. Chaos in his coun­try al­ready has kept him in power five years be­yond his man­date. The U.N., which was tasked with cer­ti­fy­ing the re­sults of the elec­tion, the United States and other world pow­ers have in­sisted Gbagbo hand over power to Ou­at­tara.

In New York on Wed­nes­day, Ivory Coast's new U.N. am­bas­sador, Yous­soufou Bamba, said he was wor­ried about his coun­try's fu­ture and was con­sult­ing with mem­bers of the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil ahead of a meet­ing next week on ways to help Ou­at­tara as­sume power.

Among his mes­sages, he said, was "to tell them we are on the brink of geno­cide."

Bamba spoke af­ter pre­sent­ing his diplo­matic cre­den­tials to Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon.

ECOWAS, the Eco­nomic Com­mu­nity of West African States, has sent com­bat troops to sev­eral na­tions in the past two decades. ECOWAS de­fense chiefs met on Wed­nes­day at the Nige­ria de­fense head­quar­ters. A sol­dier at the head­quar­ters said the meet­ing was closed to the press.

How­ever, Africa se­cu­rity an­a­lyst Peter Pham said prac­ti­cal ob­sta­cles may pre­vent troop de­ploy­ment to Ivory Coast. The best troops from ECOWAS states are al­ready de­ployed on mis­sions else­where such as Su­dan, and even if sol­diers could be found, trans­port lo­gis­tics would be a chal­lenge, he said.

"Gbagbo called their bluff on their abil­ity to fol­low through on any sort of mil­i­tary threat," said Pham, of the Na­tional Com­mit­tee on Amer­i­can For­eign Pol­icy, a New York-based think tank. "Send­ing a peace­keep­ing force is one thing, but an in­va­sion force that will be re­sisted by the na­tional mil­i­tary is quite an­other." -Ap

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