5 Jan 2011

Ivory Coast talks promised

9:48 am on 5 January 2011

Ivory Coast incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo has agreed to negotiate a peaceful end to the crisis there.

A delegation from the ECOWAS regional group says Mr Gbagbo has also agreed to end a blockade around the temporary headquarters of his election rival, Alassane Ouattara.

Mr Gbagbo has been refusing to hand over power to Mr Ouattara, who is recognised by United Nations as having won the election on 28 November.

ECOWAS has threatened to force him out. The African Union has said a power sharing arrangement is not an option, because it would hamper the democratisation process.

But the BBC reports Mr Gbagbo has given no indication he is willing to step down.

The envoys who travelled to Ivory Coast were Presidents Boni Yayi of Benin, Pedro Pires of Cape Verde and Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone - representing the Economic Community of West African States.

The BBC reports it was their second trip to Abidjan in less than a week. On Monday, they were joined by Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, representing the African Union.

But Mr Jonathan said on Tuesday: "There is still a stalemate."

After his meeting with the envoys, Mr Ouattara said the time for dialogue was now "over".

He urged ECOWAS "to use all the means at its disposal including the use of legitimate force".

Contingency plans

The BBC reports the group has been drawing up plans for a military intervention force.

However, the Ivorian army publicly continues to support Mr Gbagbo.

The presidential election on 28 November was intended to reunify the country after a civil war in a 2002 - 2003.