African Leaders Meet With Gbagbo To Deal With Ivory Coast Crisis

Three African presidents met with their defiant counterpart in Ivory Coast Tuesday in an effort to thwart the country's political crisis.

No details of the meeting were immediately available, but incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo's ministers had already signaled that the man who believed he had won Ivory Coast's presidential election had no intention of stepping down.

Presidents Yayi Boni of Benin, Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone and Pedro Pires of Cape Verde were next meeting with Gbagbo's challenger, Alassane Ouattara, who also claimed victory at the polls and who has the international community's support as Ivory Coast's legitimate leader.

The three heads of state represent the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which held an emergency meeting last Friday in Nigeria and delivered an ultimatum to Gbagbo: step down or face the threat of military force.Gbagbo's Minister of Interior Emile Guirieoulou said Sunday the three leaders would be ""received as brothers, friends.""

""We will listen to them, listen to the message they are carrying,"" he said. ""If they abide to our constitution, we're going to talk ... our Constitution is not negotiable.""

However, Foreign Affairs Minister Alcide Djedje said Gbagbo would not step down.

The ECOWAS delegation met earlier Tuesday with Young-Jin Choi, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's special envoy, and a representative of the African Union.

It's unclear if ECOWAS intends to make good on its threat or what kind of force would be used. It has intervened before in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Ivory Coast's Independent Electoral Commission, backed by the United Nations, declared opposition leader Ouattara the winner of a November runoff. But its Constitutional Council invalidated those results and declared incumbent Gbagbo the winner. "