Gbagbo Agrees To Negotiate In Ivory Coast Crisis

West African leaders say Ivory Coast's incumbent president has agreed to negotiate a peaceful end to the political crisis over November's disputed election. The Economic Community of West African States says incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo has agreed to further talks without preconditions.

An ECOWAS statement says Mr. Gbagbo will also lift his blockade of the hotel where former prime minister Alassane Ouattara has been living since Ivory Coast's electoral commission named him the winner of November's vote.

The announcement follows talks Monday between Mr. Gbagbo and the presidents of Sierra Leone, Benin, and Cape Verde as well as the African Union mediator to the crisis, Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

Mr. Gbagbo agreeing to negotiate a peaceful end to the crisis does not change West African leaders' demand that he give up power. The ECOWAS alliance and the African Union reject any sort of power sharing deal between Mr. Gbagbo and Mr. Ouattara because they say Mr. Ouattara is the duly-elected president.

So the chief purpose of further negotiations appears arranging the conditions for Mr. Gbagbo's departure. U.S. officials have raised the prospect of Mr. Gbagbo moving to the southern U.S. state of Georgia, where he has relatives.

ECOWAS Chairman Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan says Ivory Coast's political standoff is far from settled and hopes Prime Minister Odinga's experience with disputed elections in Kenya might help persuade Mr. Gbagbo to move."