Praia (AFP) Dec 29, 2010
West African leaders have taken the use of force to oust Ivory Coast's immovable strongman Laurent Gbagbo off the table as the region tries to mediate a solution, the Cape Verde government said Wednesday.
While a trio of mediators failed on Tuesday to convince Gbagbo to cede power to his election rival Alassane Ouattara, Cape Verde's foreign affairs secretary Jorge Borges said initial attempts at dialogue were "clearly hopeful".
"This initial mediation has helped to establish a bridge towards dialogue between the two camps, and we are no longer talking of military intervention by ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States) which seems, thankfully, to have been set aside for the moment," Borges told AFP.
"We are only beginning, but both parties requested time to think, which we see as a very positive sign."
Borges was speaking from Abuja, Nigeria where he is accompanying Cape Verde President Pedro Pires, leader of the diplomatic troika which also includes the president of Benin, Boni Yayi and Sierra Leone's Ernest Koroma.
The trio flew to Nigeria to brief Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, chairman of ECOWAS, after late night talks with both would-be Ivorian leaders where they failed to break a deadlock.
The 15-member Economic Community of West African States has threatened force if Gbagbo does not cede power in favour of Ouattara.
While Borges said diplomacy was being given a chance without the spectre of military force looming over the process, West African military chiefs met in Nigeria to discuss the logistics of any military intervention, a source said.
Cape Verdian President Pires had earlier said that the "Ivorian parties" had asked for "time to reflect in order to find a viable way to conclude the electoral process".
The three west African envoys are due to return to Abidjan on January 3, Jonathan said.
Both Gbagbo and Ouattara claim to have won Ivory Coast's November 28 poll run-off, but only the latter has been recognised as president by world powers.
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