Obama offers support to Ivory Coast leader Ouattara

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 12, 2011 6:51 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama called Ivory Coast presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara on Tuesday to congratulate him on assuming his duties and offer support for efforts to unite the country and restore security, the White House said.

Ouattara was able to step up to the presidency on Tuesday, a day after his forces captured Laurent Gbagbo, who had refused to surrender the position despite a U.N.-certified election won by Ouattara in November.

Obama, who had supported Ouattara and called on Gbagbo to step aside after the election, spoke with Ouattara about the importance of re-establishing normal trade and assistance relationships to jumpstart the private sector in Ivory Coast, which is the world's leading cocoa producer.

Obama and Ouattara also reiterated the importance of ensuring that alleged atrocities from the four-month power struggle are investigated and perpetrators from both sides are held accountable, the White House said.

"President Obama welcomed President Ouattara's commitment to provide security and advance the aspirations of all Ivoirians, and said that the United States will be a strong partner as President Ouattara forms an inclusive government, promotes reunification and reconciliation, and responds to the current humanitarian situation," the White House said.

Ouattara's battle against Gbagbo led to ethnic violence with hundreds of people killed as both sides committed atrocities against civilians, aid groups say.

Ouattara said Gbagbo will be prosecuted but also promised a South African-styled Truth and Reconciliation Commission to look into crimes and human rights abuses.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Bill Trott)