Ivory Coast's Ouattara rejects AU power-sharing call

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 21, 2011 9:49 AM
Ivory Coast's Ouattara rejects AU power-sharing call

By Aaron Maasho

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Ivory Coast presidential claimant Allasane Ouattara rejected on Friday an African Union call to share power with defeated President Laurent Gbagbo's supporters, calling it "illogical."

The AU endorsed Ouattara as president-elect on Thursday and recommended the formation of a government involving all political parties and civil society, while ensuring "all the necessary guarantees" for Gbagbo when he steps down.

Gbagbo has refused to relinquish power in the world's biggest cocoa producer, arguing that U.N.-certified election results showing he lost to Ouattara in a run-off last November 28 were rigged.

"You can't have people elected and say you have to share power," Ouattara told a meeting with diplomats and directors of international organizations based in Addis Ababa.

"How can I share with someone who has been in power for 10 years and whom Ivorians didn't vote for? It's illogical," he added.

Ouattara, who has been living under U.N. protection in a hotel in Abidjan since December, said the AU decision allowed him to choose "competent people from other parties for the process of reconciliation."

Gbagbo's envoys to the meeting also rejected the AU proposal to end the violent power struggle and warned that Ivory Coast risked a return to civil war.

Ouattara said he would fly to Nigeria next for talks with President Goodluck Jonathan and stay there a few days.

Gbagbo's government said on Thursday that flights by the U.N. mission in Ivory Coast (UNOCI) were banned from landing anywhere in the country, though the mission does not recognize Gbagbo's authority and has defied several demands that it leave.

A spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement the UNOCI would maintain flight operations and take all necessary measures, as directed by U.N. Security Council resolutions, to fulfill its mandate.

COCOA SEIZURE WAS "STEALING"

After months of political wrangling following a disputed election, the Ivorian power struggle has strangled the cocoa sector of the world's top grower, leaving the cocoa in storage in the country.

State television reported on Monday that Gbagbo had issued a decree under which the state becomes the sole purchaser of cocoa in the world's top grower and handles its export to world markets.

France, Britain and the United States have all condemned Gbagbo's move to control the sector as tantamount to theft. Ouattara also condemned the move.

"It is not nationalization. It is stealing because clearly, as they did with the banks, they are trying to rob people and businesses - both Ivorian and foreign," he told journalists after the meeting.

"Obviously they are not looking for the welfare of the people of (Ivory Coast). But this will change in a few days."

Ouattara expressed confidence that his country's battered economy would be back on track in a few years.

(editing by Paul Taylor)