The internationally recognized president of Ivory Coast rejected an African Union representative appointed to resolve the country's political crisis Saturday, saying he was too closely associated with incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo, who refuses to leave power.
Alassane Ouattara said that AU High Representative Jose Brito _ a former foreign minister in Cape Verde _ was not acceptable because he is not a former head of state and because of his personal and political ties to Gbagbo.
"Considering his personal relations and his political acquaintances, known to all in Ivory Coast, with the outgoing president Laurent Gbagbo ... the President of the Republic of Ivory Coast rejects Mr. Jose Brito," the Saturday statement read.
The move leaves the future of any negotiated settlement in doubt as Ivory Coast slides toward open civil war, with daily battles in the streets of the capital, and youth being enrolled en masse into the army.
The African Union reconfirmed its endorsement of Ouattara as legitimate president earlier this month, but didn't name its envoy, charged with implementing the resolution, until Saturday. The original resolution stipulated that the representative would have 14 days, a delay that expired last week, to complete his work.
A western diplomatic source said that several African heads of state were approached by the AU, but didn't want to become involved in the degenerating situation in Ivory Coast. The source spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
More than 1 million people have fled their homes amid the daily violence in both the economic capital of Abidjan and along the western border with Liberia, the U.N. said last week. At least 462 deaths have been confirmed by the U.N., but Ouattara's camp says that almost double that number have died.
Gbagbo's security forces have been accused of using heavy weapons against civilians, killing seven unarmed women earlier this month with machine guns and at least 25 people when mortars were fired on a crowded market in a separate incident.
On Saturday, about 10,000 people rallied outside the presidential palace in Abidjan. Their leader, the "street general" Charles Ble Goude, who is also a minister in Gbagbo's government, called for the rally as a show of the thousands of Ivorians willing to die to protect their president.
Ble Goude cited similar rallies he had called in the past, who's anti-foreigner message earned him U.N. sanctions for inciting hatred and led directly to the evacuation of almost 10,000 French citizens in 2004.
France and Nigeria submitted a U.N. Security Council resolution on Friday that would permit the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast to destroy heavy weapons in Abidjan and apply targeted sanctions against Gbagbo and his inner circle.