Ouattara: Quick resolution needed
Abidjan - The internationally-recognised leader of Ivory Coast, Alassane Ouattara, said on Thursday that West African mediators would have to work quickly to save his country from chaos.
The West African bloc Ecowas has urged Ouattara's rival, strongman Laurent Gbagbo, to step aside and allow the man that the world community says won last month's election to assume the presidency.
But regional leaders appear to have backed off from a threat to use military force to oust the defiant incumbent, and they plan to send three presidents back to Abidjan next week to seek a peaceful solution.
"We must act quickly. We must learn from everything that has happened. It is time to act and get out of this situation," Ouattara told reporters in his hotel base after he gave his New Year address to the nation.
Ouattara complained there had been "hundreds of deaths" since the start of the political stand-off. United Nations rights monitors had earlier said they have confirmed 179 killings in the past fortnight.
The waterfront Golf Hotel resort is the only part of Abidjan that Ouattara controls. The rest of the city and the south of the country remain in the hands of Gbagbo, who insists that he won the November poll.
The luxury complex has been turned into an armed camp protected by a small force of former rebel fighters and by 800 UN peacekeepers. Gbagbo's diehard supporters have vowed to storm it "bare-handed" in the New Year.
In his address, Ouattara's admitted that "the year 2010 ends in sadness and dismay" but urged his followers to remain patient and gave a "personal vow" to minimise any further loss in human life.