ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Envoys of Ivory Coast's Laurent Gbagbo rejected on Thursday an African Union proposal aimed at ending a violent power struggle, warning of the risk of civil war.
"We will never accept if the proposal is for President Gbagbo to step down because he is the elected leader of Cote d'Ivoire," Gbagbo's foreign minister Alcide Djedje told reporters at AU talks in Addis Ababa.
Later, Pascal Affi N'Guessan, leader of Gbagbo's Ivorian Popular Front, confirmed that the AU proposal to end the deadlock after a disputed November election was based on an endorsement of rival presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara.
"We have invited the panel to reconsider its position," he told reporters through a translator.
"If this initiative doesn't come out with irrefutable and pertinent propositions, we fear that the AU, somehow, will contribute to what the rebels started in 2002," he warned, referring to a 2002-2003 civil war that split the country in two.
N'Guessan did not give further details of the AU proposal, due to be announced at the end of the meeting.
Ouattara, widely seen by the international community as the winner of November 28 elections, was present at the AU meeting and expected to give a news conference later.
(Reporting by Aaron Maasho; writing by Mark John; editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)