Ivory Coast's Gbagbo Says World Can Review Poll
Gbagbo said in an address on state television the committee could be headed by the African Union and also involve the West African organisation ECOWAS, the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, Russia and China.
All have recognised his rival Alassane Ouattara as winner.
“I don’t want another war, I don’t want any more Ivorian blood to be spilled,” Gbagbo said.
Ivory Coast’s November 28 presidential election was intended to heal the scars of a 2002-03 war but has instead triggered a violent standoff between Gbagbo and Ouattara, with the latter recognised as victor by the outside world.
As security deteriorated further, Nigeria evacuated all its diplomats from Ivory Coast after its embassy was attacked.
Gbagbo has refused to step down despite international pressure and sanctions backed by world leaders.
He is supported by the Constitutional Council and still has the support of the army. Scores have been killed in post poll violence, many by death squads targeting Ouattara supporters at night, according to the United Nations and human rights groups.
Gbagbo said he wanted the violence to stop.
“I am therefore ready to welcome a committee…headed by the African Union, involving ECOWAS, the Arab League, the United Nations, United States, the European Union, Russia and China, which will have permission to analyse objectively the facts of the electoral process …to solve this crisis peacefully.”
Before this statement, Gbagbo and his supporters had shown no signs of giving any ground on the poll they say he won, despite being offered sanctuary in African countries like Nigeria or South Africa if he steps aside.
Diplomats said they did not take his statement seriously and that neither the United States, France nor others had been consulted.
“Bottom line, this is a delaying tactic. Gbagbo must abide by the will of the voters as certified,” one diplomat said.
The U.N. Security Council agreed on Monday to keep 10,000 U.N. peacekeepers in Ivory Coast, defying Gbagbo’s demand that they leave. EU countries and the United States imposed a travel ban on Gbagbo, his wife and his allies.
U.N. officials say Ivorian forces are blockading their mission to prevent food, water and medicines getting in.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed to member states to help break the blockade. Embassies have advised citizens to leave Ivory Coast immediately, Nigeria being the latest.
“We had to evacuate all our diplomats because our embassy in Cote d’Ivoire was attacked,” Nigerian Foreign Minister Odein Ajumogobia told reporters in Abuja. He gave no details.
ECOWAS heads of state are due to meet on Friday in the Nigerian capital Abuja to discuss developments in Ivory Coast.
An anti-Gbagbo protest last Thursday degenerated into a gun battle between pro-Gbagbo and pro-Ouattara forces near the lagoon-side Golf Hotel, where his rival administration is holed up under guard of U.N. peacekeepers with sandbagged machine gun positions.
At least 20 were killed in protests. Gbagbo’s camp says half of those were his security forces.
Despite the tensions, army spokesman Babri Gohourou announced on state TV that a curfew in place since shortly after the poll would be lifted from Wednesday.
The United Nations says at least 50 people have been killed and hundreds wounded and abducted from their homes.
Gbagbo’s government denies using excessive force to put down protests or being behind kidnappings. His interior minister Emile Guirieoulou told a news conference on Monday that the opposition had no proof of deaths or kidnappings.
Tensions in Ivory Coast, the world’s biggest cocoa producer, have pushed cocoa futures to four-month highs in recent weeks on market fears of a disruption to supplies. So far, cocoa is getting to port but there have been delays in registering.
In Amsterdam, the International Criminal Court prosecutor sait it would investigate any leaders in Ivory Coast who incited bloodshed or attacks on U.N. peacekeepers. Reuters