JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa backs the African Union in recognizing Alassane Ouattara as the winner of Ivory Coast's disputed presidential election, President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday.
Ivory Coast, the world's top cocoa grower, has been in turmoil since a disputed November election between Laurent Gbagbo and Ouattara, who won the poll according to U.N.-certified results that Gbabgo has refused to accept.
Zuma said in reply to a question in parliament that South Africa backed the AU's position.
"South Africa fully supports the position taken by the African Union on the 10th of March, namely that Mr. Ouattara is recognized as the winner, which is a reaffirmation of the position of ECOWAS," Zuma said, referring to the West African regional grouping.
He said South Africa supported the AU's attempts to find a peaceful solution to the Ivory Coast crisis. Zuma and officials in his foreign ministry had previously given the impression they thought there were doubts over the vote, suggesting they did not back the tougher line taken by West African leaders on Gbagbo.
"We are all of one mind on the way forward toward a sustainable political solution." Violence flared anew in Abidjan on Wednesday, and fighting spread to a new town in the west of the country. The new clashes in western Ivory Coast and heavy fighting in Abidjan have sparked fears that the election meant to reunify the country could instead rekindle civil war.
Ouattara told Gbagbo on Tuesday that an AU offer last week of a safe exit was his last chance to leave power peacefully.
(Reporting by Marius Bosch; Editing by Tim Cocks)