Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Ivorian leader denies move to surrender

(Al Jazeera) - Gbagbo says face-to-face talks with president-elect Ouattara is the only way to return the country to peace.

Laurent Gbagbo, Cote d'Ivoire's incumbent president, said that the Ivorian army had called for a ceasefire but denied reports that he was ready to surrender.

In a telephone interview on Tuesday with France's LCI television, he reiterated that he considered himself the winner of last November's elections

Gbagbo said the discussion over who won last year's elections continued and he said face-to-face talks with president-elect Alassane Ouattara was the only way to return the country to peace.
Forces loyal to Ouattara have cornered Gbagbo and
his closest supporters in Abidjan  [Reuters]
"The army has called for the suspension of hostilities ... and it is currently discussing the conditions of a ceasefire with the other forces on the ground, but on a political level no decision has yet been taken," Gbagbo said.

An UN official, whom the Reuters news agency did not name, said that Gbagbo was not physically in UN custody but was "still negotiating" and had "expressed a willingness to surrender".

Gbagbo is in a bunker inside the presidential residence with his family, officials said.

Reports said troops backing Ouattara have encircled the residence.

Gbagbo's latest comments came as French officials and a diplomat said he was negotiating his departure terms after French and UN forces launched a military offensive on Monday.

The French channel said the interview was conducted by phone from his residence at 1730 GMT, and lasted about 20 minutes.

Ahoua Don Mello, a government spokesman for Gbagbo, said they were also negotiating judicial and security conditions for Gbagbo's camp and his relatives," adding that they are talking to the French government which is relaying the talks to the Ouattara camp.

Alain Juppe, the French foreign minister, said negotiators are close to convincing Gbagbo to leave.