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Ivory Coast Remains in Political Limbo as Civil War Fears Linger

December 29, 2010 at 3:37 PM EDT
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GWEN IFILL: As the West African nation of Ivory Coast teeters on a political precipice, the U.N. and other nations in the region are working to avoid a civil war.

Ivory Coast remained in political limbo today, 31 days after a presidential election dissolved into stalemate. Incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo held fast to power, despite appeals Tuesday by a visiting delegation of fellow West African leaders. They urged him to go into exile.

Instead, Gbagbo’s lawyer talked today of a compromise with the opposition that would leave him in office.

AREF MOHAMED AREF, attorney for President Laurent Gbagbo: Mr. Gbagbo is ready to make a coalition government. He has already proved, he has already shown that he is willing his country to get back to peace and to a development to a reconciliation between the people.

GWEN IFILL: The U.N., the U.S. and others have rejected any power- sharing proposal as anti-democratic. They say opposition candidate Alassane Ouattara was clearly the victor in the November 28 election.

The regional leaders who visited Ivory Coast yesterday had also threatened military intervention to force Gbagbo to step down. But, today, after consulting in Nigeria, they said they will continue talks with him next week.

In a statement, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said: “It is dialogue that will solve issues. The dialogue is on.”

For Ivory Coast, the political crisis is the latest in a long series of problems, including a recent civil war. And there are fears the former French colony, also known as Cote d’Ivoire, will again be engulfed in violence. At least 173 people were reported killed in the days following the disputed election.

A tense calm has prevailed since then, but government supporters attacked a convoy of U.N. peacekeepers yesterday. One of the soldiers was wounded.

Fearing a full-scale conflict, the U.S. is now planning for the possible evacuation of its embassy in Abidjan.