US urges ICoast's Gbagbo to quit 'immediately'

1st April 2011, Comments 0 comments

The United States on Friday urged Ivory Coast's besieged strongman Laurent Gbagbo to "step down immediately" and called on UN and French forces to take all possible steps to protect civilians.

Gbagbo desperately clung to power Friday with explosions and gunfire shaking Abidjan as forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara, whom the international community considers the victor in elections last year, closed in on his last bastion.

"We are concerned about the ongoing violence and we call on Mr. Gbabgo to step down immediately," Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman, told reporters.

He said the United States also urged "UN forces there as well as French forces to take all possible steps and measures to protect civilians and stop any looting that might occur."

Several hundred people have been killed in the aftermath of the presidential election in November and the UN estimates a million people have fled Abidjan in recent weeks fearing a bloodbath.

While the Gbagbo remained silent, his whereabouts unknown, a close aide said he had no intention of giving himself up.

But Toner said it looked like events were "coming to a resolution" and "we encourage Mr. Gbagbo to read the writing on the wall" and step down.

© 2011 AFP

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