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Ivory Coast crisis heightens as Ouattara rejects vice-president job

by Al Jazeera
11 Jan 2011 at 18:24hrs | Views
Alassane Ouattara, the man recognised by the international community as the winner of Cote d'Ivoire's presidential poll, has rejected an offer from Laurent Gbagbo, the incumbent president, to take up the role of vice-president, sources have told Al Jazeera.
The offer was reportedly made on Tuesday during mediation efforts to break the political deadlock following the disputed poll.
The United Nations says more than 200 people have been killed in violence since the dispute broke out between Gbagbo, who has refused to step down as president, and Ouattara, after a presidential runoff on November 28, which the UN says Ouattara won. 
On Tuesday at least five people were killed in clashes in Abidjan between supporters of the presidential claimant and forces loyal to Gbagbo, according to Reuters news agency.
It reported that two bodies of protesters and three police lay in the streets, all with gunshot wounds, after clashes in the predominantly pro-Ouattara neighbourhood of Abobo, as hundreds of police backed with armoured vehicles and machine guns patrolled the area.
Sporadic gunfire could be heard across the neighbourhood, Reuters said.
Yvonne Ndege, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Abidjan, said that Ouattara supporters have been angry for weeks due to the ongoing political stalemate.
"I doubt this will be the last face-off between security forces and Ouattara supporters," she said.
Ethnic violence in Cote d'Ivoire's western town of Duekoue last week killed 33 people and wounded 75, the chief of its main hospital told the news agency.
Mediation continues
Raila Odinga, the Kenyan prime minister and the African Union's mediator in the Ivorian crisis, is expected to fly back to the troubled West African country this week, his spokesman said on Tuesday.
"The PM has indicated that he will return to Ivory Coast this week. The date of his return will be either Thursday or Friday," Dennis Onyango told the AFP news agency.
Our correspondent said that the issue of Gbagbo stepping down is no longer a precondition to finding a peaceful solution.
"What I'm sensing is the whole issue of power sharing is what will be advocated to try and bring an end to all this," she said.
Odinga's first trip to Abidjan since being appointed as mediator by the continental body ended on January 5 with little tangible progress in resolving the standoff.
Meanwhile, Olusegun Obasanjo, former Nigerian leader and mediator, left Cote d'Ivoire early on Monday as the country's incumbent president continued to defy the world and insist he had won the recent election.
Obasanjo, who came unannounced over the weekend, had driven back and forth between the presidency and a hotel across town where Ouattara is barricaded.
The purpose of Obasanjo's visit was to deliver the international community's message as forcefully as possible, and to offer Gbagbo an exile abroad and a monthly stipend if he chooses to step down, said an adviser to Ouattara who was briefed on the discussions.
The adviser spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. He also said Obasanjo repeated the warning that Gbagbo will face a regional military ouster if he does not cede power.
The UN Security Council on Monday urged an end to the broadcasting of what it calls "false information" in Cote d'Ivoire, which it says is aimed at inciting ethnic violence. 
The council's statement, read to reporters by Mirsada Colakovic, Bosnia's deputy UN ambassador, voiced "deep concern over continued violence and human rights violations" in the West African country.
"The members of the Security Council strongly condemned and demanded an immediate halt to the use of media, especially Radiodiffusion-Television Ivoirienne (RTI), to propagate false information to incite hatred and violence, including against the UN," the statement read.
"In view of the recognition set out in the communique of Alassane Dramane Ouattara as president of Cote d'Ivoire, the members of the Security Council reiterated their call on all Ivorian parties and stakeholders to respect the will of the people and the outcome of the election," the statement said.
Alain Le Roy, UN peacekeeping chief, told the 15-nation council last week that he would ask for up to 2,000 additional peacekeepers to top up the 10,000-strong UN force, known as UNOCI.
The statement said the Council "welcomed the submission of the detailed recommendations and proposals" aimed at strengthening the UNOCI.

Source - Al Jazeera