Obama Has Called Alassane Ouattara To Congratulate Him On Taking Power In Ivory Coast

Laurent Gbagbo, Ivory Coast's toppled leader, will be protected before facing justice in his own country, the new president has declared.

Update: Obama Has Called Alassane Ouattara To Congratulate Him On Taking Power In Ivory Coast

U.S. President Barack Obama today called Alassane Ouattara, the president of the Ivory Coast, to congratulate him on assuming power following his election, the White House said in a statement.

Obama offered U.S. support for Ouattara’s efforts to unite the country and restore security following a contentious election, the statement said.

Ouattara assumed the presidency after the Ivory Coast’s former leader, Laurent Gbagbo, was arrested yesterday for refusing to recognize the results of a Nov. 28 election where Ouattara was declared the winner.

Obama and Ouattara discussed the importance of investigated “alleged atrocities” that may have been committed in the country and pledged to support a United Nations inquiry, the statement said. They also talked about re-establishing trade and economic relationship to help “jumpstart” the Ivory Coast’s economy.

Update: EU Urges National Unity Government In Ivory Coast

The European Union urged Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara on Tuesday to form a national unity government to help put the war-shattered country back on track and pledged its support for the new government.

Ouattara, who toppled Laurent Gbagbo on Monday after a four-month power struggle, has an historic opportunity to heal the country's divisions, EU foreign ministers said at the end of a meeting in Luxembourg.

"The EU welcomes President Ouattara's commitment to achieving national reconciliation," they said in a statement.

"It stands ready to support the work of the proposed Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and encourages President Ouattara to form an inclusive, broad-based government representative of all the regions and all strands of political opinion in the country."

The EU, which has lifted some sanctions on some entities, said it would consider easing more restrictions and resuming development programs for Ivory Coast as soon as possible.

On allegations of rights violations, it urged the International Commission of Inquiry into human rights violations,

set up by the UN Human Rights Council last month, to investigate the charges as swiftly as possible.

Alassane Ouattara (R) speaks with Guillaume Soro at the Hotel du Golf in AbidjanAlassane Ouattara Says Laurent Gbagbo 'Will Be Tried In His Own Country'

Laurent Gbagbo, Ivory Coast's toppled leader, will be protected before facing justice in his own country, the new president has declared.

As he began the task of reconciling the divided west African nation, Alassane Ouattara announced “legal proceedings” were under way against Mr Gbagbo, his wife and political allies.

Mr Ouattara dismissed calls for Mr Gbagbo, who is accused of atrocities against civilians, to be swiftly deported for trial and said “all measures” were being taken to protect him after his dramatic capture.

“I ask you to remain calm and show restraint,” Mr Ouattara said in a televised address, in which he hailed “the dawn of a new era of hope”.

A UN-backed attempt to move Mr Gbagbo descended into farce on Tuesday evening, as officials admitted the deposed strongman had simply refused to budge from his room at Abidjan's Golf Hotel.

Farhan Haq, the UN Secretary-General's deputy spokesman, said earlier that Mr Gbagbo had been moved to a secret location, presumed to be in the north where Mr Ouattara’s support is based.

However Mr Haq last night told The Daily Telegraph his announcement “was made based on information on the ground that has now been corrected”.

Hamadoun Toure, the UN spokesman in Ivory Coast, confirmed that a UN convoy arrived at the hotel to transport Mr Gbago to an airfield for a flight north, but he refused to leave his room.

"We went to collect him and he wouldn't come," he said. “We can't force him. That's not our job.”

Mr Gbagbo is expected to remain in custody as preparations are made for him, his wife Simone and key lieutenants to be tried over violence that has raged since disputed elections in November.

Mr Ouattara dismissed suggestions that Mr Gbagbo would be sent for trial to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

“They will receive dignified treatment and their rights will be respected,” he said.

Mr Ouattara said he would also establish a truth and reconciliation committee to investigate alleged massacres perpetrated by both sides.

UN and French forces moved to stamp out the final pockets of resistance in the city yesterday.

In Abidjan, battles raged in areas where Mr Gbagbo’s support was strongest. Residents in the northern neighbourhood of Yopougon said armed militia were still roaming the streets.

Gunfire and explosions were also heard in the central Plateau, near the French military base in the south and in the northern suburb of Cocody, where Mr Gbagbo had remained in his bunker in the presidential residence for 10 days.

Philippe Mangou, the Ivory Coast army's chief of staff, and former Gbagbo ally, urged all security forces to back Mr Ouattara, as generals pledged their loyalty to the internationally recognised president.

The conflict has killed at least 800 people. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said at least 536 people had been killed since the start of the month in the west alone. The UN Human Rights Council has established a group of experts to identify those responsible.

Further details emerged on Tuesday about how Mr Gbagbo was captured and the moments after he was brought out of his bunker. A soldier with Mr Ouattara’s forces said Mr Gbagbo was “trembling and sweating” as he was bundled into an armoured car wearing a bullet-proof vest for his own protection.

“When forces got into the bunker, they found Gbagbo behind his desk, and the first thing he said was 'Don’t kill me’,” he said.

Reports suggested Desire Tagro, one of Mr Gbagbo’s closest aides, died on Tuesday in unclear circumstances, after surrendering.