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Laurent Gbagbo remains defiant

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Laurent Gbagbo

Ivory Coast’s Laurent Gbagbo has refused to handover the country’s presidency to Alessane Outtara, despite being surrounded by fighters loyal to his internationally-backed rival.

Gbagbo remained defiant even as three of his top generals reportedly ordered their men to stop fighting Outtara’s forces, who had seized the presidential palace in the commerical capital Abidjan.

“I won the election and I’m not negotiating my departure,” he told French TV station LCI by telephone from a bunker at his home.

“I find it absolutely incredible that the entire world is playing this … game of poker.”

Gbagbo has clung to power despite a UN-mandated vote count finding that he lost last November’s presidential election, but his power has been diminished as Outtara’s forces have descended on Abidjan.

Earlier, UN officials told reporters that Gbagbo’s surrender was “imminent” and France’s foreign minister Alain Juppe said the imternational community was “on the brink of convincing him to leave”.

Juppe said that any negotiations with Gbagbo would require his recognition of Ouattara as president.

US President Barack Obama urged the embattled incumbent to step down immediately and voiced strong support for French and UN military efforts faced with the violence.

“To end this violence and prevent more bloodshed, former president Gbagbo must stand down immediately, and direct those who are fighting on his behalf to lay down their arms,” Obama said in a statement.

Gbagbo’s forces called for a ceasefire after the UN peacekeeping force in Ivory Coast, supported by the French military, targeted Gbagbo’s heavy artillery.

Attack helicopters were used to take out the weapons after civilians were killed in shelling.

“Fighting has stopped but there is sporadic shooting by groups of youths who are not members of the FDS (Pro-Gbagbo army) or the Republican forces (of Alassane Ouattara),” UN mission spokesman Hamadoun Toure.

Gbagbo’s army chief General Philippe Mangou, and two other generals requested their men surrender their arms to UN peacekeepers and seek protection.

“Following the bombardment by the French forces on some of our positions and certain strategic points in the city of Abidjan, we have ourselves stopped fighting and have asked the general commanding ONUCI (the UN force) for a ceasefire,” Mangou said.

More than 1,500 people are reported to have died in the standoff that has rekindled the country’s 2002-03 civil war.
Source: Sky News

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