African presidents head to Ivory Coast to mediate crisis

2011-03-04 13:18

A panel of five African presidents will meet briefly in Mauritania before heading to Ivory Coast today to mediate a political crisis which the United Nations warns may spiral into civil war.

“The five (presidents) will meet for two hours in Nouakchott before taking their flight to Abidjan,” a Mauritanian diplomatic source told AFP.

The panel is headed by Mauritania’s President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz and includes Tanzania’s Jakaya Kikwete, South African President Jacob Zuma, Idriss Deby Itno of Chad and Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso.

The heads of state first met on February 20 to examine proposals to end a deadlock in the Ivory Coast where strongman Laurent Gbagbo has been clinging to power after losing in November elections.

The panel then went to Abidjan to present the rivals with their proposal, with the exception of Blaise Compaore, accused by Gbagbo’s camp of backing Alassane Ouattara, internationally recognised as the winner.

The African Union in January tasked the presidents with coming up with a binding solution to the crisis, accepted by both camps, by the end of February. However, the deadline was pushed back by one month.

Friday’s meeting comes as the UN Security Council warns the cocoa-producing country is “spiralling” towards civil war, amid mounting violence.

At least six women were shot dead in Abidjan yesterday by Gbagbo’s security forces in a crackdown on a gathering in Abobo, a violence-wracked stronghold of Ouattara in the north of the commercial capital.

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