I. Coast's Ouattara 'appeals' to Gbagbo camp for unity

11th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

Ivory Coast's Alassane Ouattara is willing to work as president in a unity government with Laurent Gbagbo's camp if the strongman drops his claim to power, the country's UN envoy has told the BBC.

Youssoufou Bamba, Ivory Coast's ambassador to the United Nations, urged Gbagbo to recognise Ouattara as the "legitimate president" following November's disputed elections, in an interview with the British broadcaster released Monday.

"And from there, Mr. Gbagbo is not alone. He has followers, he has competent people in his party. Those people, we are prepared to work with them. In the framework of a wide composite cabinet."

Ouattara is internationally recognised as the winner of November 28 presidential polls in the west African nation, but incumbent Gbagbo also claims to have won the vote and is refusing to give up power.

Bamba said Ouattara could work with Gbagbo but rejected comparisons with the situation in Kenya and Zimbabwe, which have power-sharing governments.

"Yes he could work with him [Gbagbo]. Because he is an Ivorian citizen," he was cited as saying.

"What I am saying should be clear. The win by Mr. Ouattara could not be put into question anymore. That, if Mr. Gbagbo accepts that, we could negotiate. Otherwise, I could not understand how it could be otherwise."

If Gbagbo gave up his claim to power, that would be "the starting point" for negotiations, said the envoy, speaking from UN headquarters in New York.

"I think from there, everything is open. It's on the table," he added.

Bamba was Ouattara's first internationally recognised ambassador when he handed over his credentials as envoy to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the end of last month.

The envoy underlined his concerns about alleged human rights violations in the wake of the disputed poll, but suggested cooperation was still possible.

"What I am saying, the crimes perpetrated... are true. There is massive violation of human rights, that's true," he was cited as saying.

"But you know in politics, life goes on," Bamba continued. "You have to, at some point, envisage how you are, because you are condemned to live together."

Repeated attempts by regional leaders to find a solution to the stand-off in Ivory Coast have so far floundered and the crisis has seen at least 210 people killed.

Ouattara is protected at the besieged Golf Hotel in Abidjan by around 800 UN peacekeepers as well as the ex-rebel New Forces allied with his camp since troops shot dead several of his supporters on December 16.

Former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo was the latest regional figure to attempt to mediate the crisis. He left Ivory Coast Monday after two days attempting to find a way through the deadlock.

© 2011 AFP

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