Compaore arrives in I Coast

2010-02-22 22:11

Abidjan - Fresh clashes broke out in troubled Ivory Coast on Monday as a regional crisis mediator arrived in the country for urgent talks to salvage a political deal and keep long-awaited elections in sight.

Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore flew in to Abidjan to hold talks with government and opposition leaders to break a festering political stalemate which has delayed the announcement of a new government.

Renewed street clashes that left two police officers with gunshot wounds in the city underscored the urgency of Compaore's task as he prepared for talks with President Laurent Gbagbo and Prime Minister Guillaume Soro.

He was also due to meet separately with the main opposition leaders, Henri Konan Bedie and Alassane Ouattara as well as diplomats and the head of the UN mission, Young-jin Choi, according to a source close to the mediation.

Talks

The turmoil has cast fresh doubt on the west African nation's ability to hold a presidential election, which had been scheduled for March and which has already been postponed six times since Gbagbo's mandate ran out in 2005.

Compaore's visit follows fruitless talks in Ouagadougou on Sunday with the two opposition leaders, who are wary of a new government that Soro is trying to form.

Gbagbo plunged the divided west African country back into crisis on February 12 when he dissolved both Soro's national unity government and the Independent Electoral Commission, accusing the latter of "fraud" on new voters' rolls.

The opposition said he was trying to indefinitely delay the elections.

Violent protests have taken place across Ivory Coast since the shock sackings, which came after investigators said they had found evidence of fraud in the electoral roll being compiled for the poll.

At least five people have been killed in the unrest.

On Monday, youths erected barricades of burning tyres and fired rocks at police in the north of Abidjan, an AFP journalist said.

'A popular movement'

Public television quoted a police official as saying two officers had received gunshot wounds in the clashes.

A medic told AFP he saw a civilian lying badly injured on the ground before being taken away by ambulance.

A local opposition representative said that there had been no call by party leaders for anti-Gbagbo demonstrations and explained that those taking place were a "popular movement".

The home of the presidential spokesperson was ransacked by a mob in the central city of Katiola, where rioters tried to burn the local headquarters of Gbagbo's party and a hotel, Gbagbo's local campaign director Martin Yao Toure told AFP.

Elsewhere, riot police fired tear gas to disperse opposition demonstrators in the central town of Daloa, witnesses said.

For days, Soro has been trying to form a new government, but ex-president Bedie and former prime minister Ouattara have raised objections that they took to Compaore in Burkina Faso on Sunday

But while Compaore expressed the hope that all political parties would be represented in the government, Bedie said this was "not being envisaged for the moment".

The opposition has opposed the formation of a new government until the electoral commission has been reinstated. More recently they have also called on Gbagbo to resign.

The election is designed to unify a nation split between the south, dominated by Gbagbo's party, and the north - held by Soro's ex-rebel New Forces party - since an unsuccessful attempt to oust Gbagbo in 2002.

- SAPA
Read more on:    guillaume soro  |  blaise compaore  |  laurent gbagbo  |  ivory coast  |  west africa
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