UN urges Ivory Coast leader to admit defeat in landmark vote

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Ivory Coast's Laurent Gbagbo had no grounds to dispute the results of the presidential election on 28 November which gave his rival, Alassane Ouattara, victory, the United Nations said yesterday after reviewing the vote.

Defying international calls to step down, Mr Gbagbo has sworn himself in for a new term and named a government, despite provisional results that gave Mr Ouattara nearly a 10-point margin. Mr Ouattara has taken a presidential oath in a rival ceremony and refused to back down in a power struggle that risks sending the West African nation, the world's top cocoa grower, back into conflict eight years after civil war split it between the north and south.

The UN mission chief in the country, YJ Choi, rejected accusations from the Gbagbo camp that he had meddled in internal affairs and said an Ivorian Constitutional Council move to annul Mr Ouattara's victory was "not based on facts".

Mr Choi said: "I am only doing my job as requested by the Ivorian authorities. I remain absolutely certain that I have found the truth concerning the will of the Ivorian people. The people have chosen one person... Mr Alassane Ouattara with an irrefutable margin."

Mr Gbagbo remains in control of the army and state television and has shown no signs of backing down.