Wednesday, January 26, 2011

African Union Chair Meets Ivory Coast Presidential Rivals

AU chief meets Ivory Coast presidential rivals .

Tuesday, 25 January 2011 18:45

ABIDJAN - The African Union chief held talks Tuesday with both rivals claiming to be Ivory Coast's president as regional envoys headed to the United States, intensifying diplomatic efforts to end the dispute.
Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika went into a meeting with Laurent Gbagbo, whom he urged early this month to step down to "avoid a bloodbath", immediately after arriving in Abidjan on a surprise visit.

The head of the 53-nation African Union later met Alassane Ouattara, internationally recognised to have won the November 28 election but confined to his hotel camp for weeks by soldiers loyal to Gbagbo.

"My responsibility is to listen to the two, to hear their opinion on how we can move forward," he told reporters before flying out from Blantyre as the latest in a string of envoys to attempt to resolve the standoff.

"Even if these people (other envoys) have already come, that does not mean that I cannot do the same to help," he said.

A delegation from West African bloc ECOWAS meanwhile headed to the United States where they wanted to meet President Barack Obama and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon over the crisis, the Nigerian foreign minister said. The Economic Community of West African States, currently headed by Nigeria, has threatened military intervention amid concerns the dragging dispute will ignite civil conflict and cause a humanitarian crisis.

"True," Nigerian Foreign Minister Odein Ajumogobia said, confirming media reports on the planned meetings in the United States but declining to give details.

Ajumogobia on Monday called on the UN Security Council to authorise force in Ivory Coast.

The 15-nation ECOWAS "requires unequivocal international support through an appropriate United Nations Security Council resolution to sanction the use of force," he said.

Sierra Leone President Ernest Koroma lead the team to Washington, according to Nigerian media. ECOWAS commission president James Victor Gbeho was also part of the mission, the reports said.
White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said the delegation was scheduled to hold talks with Obama's national security advisor, Thomas Donilon.-AFP

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