Ivory Coast leader has limited time to step down with im­punity

The Washington Post Sunday - - THE WORLD - BY TIM COCKS

abid­jan, ivory coast — The de­feated pres­i­dent of Ivory Coast has only days in which to leave power peace­fully with im­mu­nity from pros­e­cu­tion, the prime min­is­ter ap­pointed by his suc­cess­ful elec­toral ri­val said Satur­day.

How­ever, a se­nior aide to in­cum­bent Lau­rent Gbagbo said that while the long­time leader was open to talks, his stay­ing on as pres­i­dent was “non­nego­tiable.”

Three pres­i­dents from theWest African re­gional bloc ECOWAS are plan­ning a sec­ond round of talks with Gbagbo on Mon­day in an ef­fort to per­suade him to cede power to Alas­sane Ou­at­tara, the in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized win­ner of a Nov. 28 elec­tion or face an ouster by force.

“ The mes­sage seems clear. This is the last chance for Mr. Gbagbo to get a peace­ful de­par­ture from power and a guar­an­tee of im­mu­nity,” Ou­at­tara’s prime min­is­ter, Guil­laume Soro, told re­porters at the Golf Ho­tel, his ri­val govern­ment’s head­quar­ters, pro­tected by about 600 U.N. peace­keep­ing troops.

Ear­lier, a spokesman for Ou­at­tara said ECOWAS must use mil­i­tary force soon or Gbagbo would be­come en­trenched in power and be­come more dif­fi­cult to re­move.

Gbagbo has shown no sign of giv­ing in to grow­ing in­ter­na­tional pres­sure to step down as leader of the world’s lead­ing co­coa grower since a top court, run by one of his al­lies, over­turned the elec­tion re­sult that gave Ou­at­tara vic­tory.

The United States says more than 200 peo­ple have been killed since the stand­off, which has threat­ened to reignite a 2002-03 civil war. The United Na­tions has said Gbagbo may be crim­i­nally li­able for hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions, in­clud­ing killings and kid­nap­pings by se­cu­rity forces.

“We are ready for di­a­logue with ECOWAS,” Gbagbo’s cam­paign man­ager, Pas­cal Affi N’Gues­san, said by phone. But Gbagbo “won’t leave. . . . We won’t ne­go­ti­ate on that ques­tion.”

The United States and the Euro­peanUnion have im­posed sanc­tions on Gbagbo and his in­ner cir­cle, while the World Bank and the West African cen­tral bank have cut off his fi­nanc­ing in an ef­fort to weaken his grip on power.

ECOWAS de­fense chiefs met last week in Nige­ria to work on a pos­si­ble in­ter­ven­tion plan.

“Nei­ther sanc­tions nor in­ter­na­tional pres­sure have con­vinced Gbagbo to leave power,” Soro said. “I am call­ing for the use of le­git­i­mate force. We have yet to see a dic­ta­tor leave power peace­fully.”

A Gbagbo spokesman was not im­me­di­ately avail­able. Asked Fri­day if he would leave if ECOWAS moved to oust him, Gbagbo told Euronews tele­vi­sion: “I will see. I’ll think it over. But for the moment it’s not an is­sue.”

Soro said he asked the New Forces rebels still oc­cu­py­ing the north since the civil war not to in­ter­vene, but to sup­port what­ever force does ar­rive to re­move Gbagbo.

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