Time running out for Ivory Coast settlement

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The Independent Online

Time is running out for a peaceful settlement of Ivory Coast's crisis, the Kenyan premier Raila Odinga said yesterday after leading a failed African Union mediation bid, adding that force was a "last resort".

The incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo, has defied calls to quit after UN-certified results showed he was the loser of a 28 November election, prolonging a stand-off with his rival, Alassane Ouattara, that risks throwing the country back into civil war.

"The window for a peaceful negotiation is closing very fast," Mr Odinga told reporters on returning to Kenya.

"We will continue to walk the extra mile to find a peaceful resolution... The use of legitimate force is there and we will say that it is the ultimate resort, the very last resort if everything else has failed," he added.

There is little appetite among African nations for armed intervention in a country where 260 have already died in violence linked to the deadlock. Nations such as Ghana say they will not offer troops.

Leaders of the 53-state African Union will discuss their next steps at a summit at the end of the month, and signs are emerging of cracks in the official AU line that Mr Gbagbo should immediately make way for Mr Ouattara.

Mr Odinga made a detour to Angola and South Africa, holding talks with the leadership of two states seen as potential weak points in AU unity. South African President Jacob Zuma said there were "some discrepancies" in the election result and dismissed a proposal for Mr Gbagbo to go into exile.

Mr Odinga said a recount, as suggested by Mr Gbagbo, would be pointless. "I told Gbagbo and the two presidents that it is an exercise in futility. Even if you are to open the ballot boxes and do a recount, no one would believe you," he said.