Mbeki intervenes as disputed election threatens violence

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The Independent Online

Former South African leader Thabo Mbeki sought yesterday to mediate an end to a dispute over Ivory Coast's presidential election that threatens to spell new unrest in the divided West African nation. The 28 November vote was aimed at reuniting a country split after a 2002-03 civil war but only raised tensions as the incumbent Laurent Gbagbo and challenger Alassane Ouattara claimed victory and took presidential oaths.

The United Nations, Ivory Coast's neighbours and others have urged Mr Gbagbo to concede after provisional results showed him losing. No clear idea of a possible compromise has emerged so far and Mr Mbeki said little publicly after talks with Mr Gbagbo.

Mr Mbeki said: "We want to hear all points of view on this matter before we can make any recommendations." He was scheduled later in the day to meet Mr Ouattara at a UN-guarded Abidjan hotel.

In the northern town of Bouake, the stronghold of rebels opposed to Mr Gbagbo, tens of thousands of Mr Ouattara's supporters demonstrated, demanding Mr Gbagbo step down.

Mr Gbagbo was sworn in as President of Ivory Coast on Saturday even though the electoral commission declared Mr Ouattara the winner according to provisional results. Mr Ouattara has vowed to form a parallel government.