SA urges Ivory Coast's Gbagbo to retire
Johannesburg - South Africa on Wednesday urged Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo to respect the wish of neighbouring African states for him to stand down and hand power to presidential rival Alassane Ouattara.
The government said in a statement that Gbagbo should "respect and abide by the declarations issued" by the African Union (AU) and the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), which said he should step aside.
"The South African government calls for restraint and further urges the Ivorian leaders to promote national reconciliation and unity as the uppermost priority during this period in Ivory Coast," it added.
On Monday, former South African president Thabo Mbeki ended a mediation trip to Abidjan on behalf of the AU during which he met with both Gbagbo and Ouattara and urged them to find a peaceful solution. He said he would report back to the 53-nation continental bloc.
The November 28 run off election was supposed to end a decade of instability in the west African country but it has descended into a potentially explosive stand-off that has disrupted the economy and raised fears of major unrest.
Gbagbo unveiled his own new cabinet on Tuesday but Ouattara's prime minister Guillaume Soro said his rival government was replacing Ivorian ambassadors in key countries and was "taking measures" to gain control of public finances.
AU Chairperson Bingu wa Mutharika on Wednesday demanded Gbagbo "respect the will of the people" and step aside, following a similar declaration by Ecowas.
US State Department spokesperson Philip Crowley also repeated a call for Gbagbo to quit for "a peaceful transition".