Ivory Coast rebels 'encircle' Abidjan: Soro

31st March 2011, Comments 0 comments

Rebel forces are "encircling" Ivory Coast's main city Abidjan to drive Laurent Gbagbo from power and several of his generals have defected, an opposition leader told French television Thursday.

"Our troops are currently encircling the city of Abidjan," said Guillaume Soro, named as prime minister in the rival government set up by Gbagbo's opponent Alassane Ouattara.

"We will hold this position until the defections take place and power is transferred to Alassane Dramane Ouattara, who was democratically elected," he added, speaking on France 24 television.

"A bloodbath in Abidjan must be avoided so we are giving the chance to everyone who wants to join our side, to do so peacefully," Soro said.

"We are giving them a few hours."

Ouattara has been recognised by much of the international community as Ivory Coast's rightful leader but Gbagbo has refused to quit power, dragging the country into violence that has raised fears of civil war.

"There are already several generals who have joined our side. I have been in touch with several generals who have agreed to do so. In the coming hours and minutes they will make public declarations," Soro said.

"Gbagbo must give himself up," he added. "We have located him and we are tracking him minute by minute."

Earlier, while Gbagbo remained silent, his army chief and key ally, General Philippe Mangou, sought refuge in the South African ambassador's residence.

Heavy weapons' fire was heard near a military camp in Abidjan, an AFP journalist reported.

© 2011 AFP

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