Crisis Envoys Meet With Gbagbo As Pressure Mounts


Three representatives of the Economic Community of West African States and an African Union representative met twice Monday with self-declared Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo in an attempt to persuade him to step down, but there was no indication late in the day that they were near their goal.

"We had a very fruitful meeting between all parties and in a good spirit," Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma told reporters after meeting with Gbagbo for a second time Monday in his residence here. "But the discussions are still underway." He said a full statement would be issued Tuesday, though there was no indication that further meetings would be held Tuesday.

The presidents of Benin, Sierra Leone and Cape Verde, and the African Union mediator -- Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga -- also met with the man the international community recognizes as the winner, Alassane Ouattara. After the meeting, Ouattara told reporters that Gbagbo must leave immediately.

The African leaders then departed Abidjan. They had indicated they were planning to fly to Abuja, Nigeria, to consult with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan on the matter.

An election observer in the Ivory Coast's November 28 election for the Carter Center offered a dour interpretation of Monday's events. "It doesn't look like he will take an offer from these leaders today, and that's a real problem, it's a tragedy," John Stremlau, told CNNI in a telephone interview. "He is being obstinate right now."

The leaders' apparent failure to make progress leaves the West African community with little recourse but to strengthen the U.N. presence, he said. "There has got to be a resolution of this, but it should not betray the wishes of the Ivorian people," he said.