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Articles / Humanity

By Daniel Flynn

PARIS | Tue Apr 5, 2011 5:16pm EDT

(Reuters) - Ivory Coast's Laurent Gbagbo said on Tuesday that his armed forces were negotiating a ceasefire after coming under direct attack by French forces, but he denied that he was ready to surrender.

In a telephone interview with France's LCI television, Gbagbo insisted he had won November's presidential election and he called for talks with his rival Alassane Ouattara, who has been recognized as the winner by the international community.

Ouattara's forces have fought their way into the main city Abidjan after advancing across the country, and France said on Tuesday it expected a swift exit by Gbagbo.

"The army has called for the suspension of hostilities ... and it is currently discussing the conditions of a ceasefire with the other forces on the ground, but on a political level no decision has yet been taken," Gbagbo said, speaking from the presidential palace in Abidjan.

"The underlying debate continues. That debate is simple: who won the elections of November 21?" he said. "He (Ouattara) did not win the elections ... To bring peace back to Ivory Coast it is necessary for the two of us to talk, that is the most important thing."

Gbagbo criticized France for intervening in what he said was an internal political dispute, after French military helicopters late on Monday destroyed armored personnel carriers and heavy weapons belonging to forces loyal to Gbagbo.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy's government has said it was acting at the request of the United Nations and in line with the mandate of a U.N. resolution to protect civilians.

"Yesterday, Monday, France entered directly into a war against us," Gbagbo said. "France carried out military strikes with war planes and bombarded strategic sites in the (commercial) capital Abidjan."

He said the sites targeted include munitions dumps, the presidential palace and state radio and television.

"I don't understand how an electoral dispute in Ivory Coast has brought about the direct intervention of the French army."

Gbagbo sounded tired but resolute in the interview.

"I'm not a kamikaze. I love life. My voice is not the voice of a martyr, no, no, no, I'm not looking for death. It's not my aim, to die," he said.

(Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

Source: Reuters
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Posted by nova on April 5, 2011 at 4:53 pm
Here is a timeline of events in Ivory Coast:

July 22, 2010 - Former rebel leader Guillaume Soro quits as rebel party chief amid meetings between President Laurent Gbagbo and opposition leaders, which appear to result in agreement that elections can finally go ahead after years of delay. Two weeks later Soro sets the first round of the poll for October 31.

October 31 - First round of presidential election. Gbagbo comes first with 38 percent, not enough to win outright. Former premier Alassane Ouattara is second with 32 percent.

November 28 - Run-off ballot between Gbagbo and Ouattara.

December 2 - The election commission says Ouattara wins with 54.1 percent of the vote compared with 45.9 percent for Gbagbo.

December 3 - The Constitutional Council, run by a Gbagbo ally, rejects the results as rigged. Gbagbo is declared the winner.

-- The United Nations refuses to endorse Gbagbo's win and endorses Ouattara as winner.

December 16 - Pro-Gbagbo and pro-Ouattara forces wage gun battles in the streets of Abidjan, and the town of Tiebissou.

December 18 - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon rejects a demand by Gbagbo for United Nations' and French forces to leave.

December 21 - Gbagbo invites world commission to investigate poll results. Move dismissed by critics as delaying tactic.

December 22 - The World Bank cuts financing to Ivory Coast, freezing aid commitments in excess of $800 million.

December 24 - Heads of state from ECOWAS issue declaration threatening the use of force if Gbagbo does not step down.

-- Ouattara asks for a Hague tribunal to investigate alleged human rights abuses after the U.N. and human rights groups point to reports of killings, kidnappings and torture.

December 28 - Benin's Boni Yayi, Sierra Leone's Ernest Bai Koroma and Pedro Pires of Cape Verde, who met with Gbagbo to deliver an ultimatum to step down or face force, leave saying more meetings are needed. They return without success on January 3.

January 10, 2011 - Ouattara says he will form a unity government with members of Gbagbo's party, as long as Gbagbo steps down first, the country's ambassador to the U.N. says.

January 19 - Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga says an African effort to mediate the disputed poll fails, blaming Gbagbo and warning of harsh sanctions or force if he does not step down.

January 22 - West African presidents tighten the financial screws on Gbagbo by removing an ally as governor of regional central bank, BCEAO, who had safeguarded his access to funds.

February 17 - Ivory Coast's biggest bank, a unit of Societe Generale, says it is suspending its activities, the latest in an exodus of foreign banks. The same day, Gbagbo seizes control of the local units of foreign banks.

March 11 - Gbagbo rejects an AU proposal at a summit offering him a safe exit in return for ceding power to Ouattara.

March 25 - Up to one million Ivorians have fled fighting in the main city Abidjan alone, with others uprooted across the country, the UNHCR says.

March 30 - The U.N. Security Council slaps travel bans and asset freezes on Gbagbo and his closest associates.

March 31 - Forces loyal to Outtara seize the major cocoa port of San Pedro.

-- Ouattara says forces under his command are "at the gates" of Abidjan and calls on Gbagbo's remaining loyalists to switch sides to prevent further suffering.

April 2 - The International Committee of the Red Cross says at least 800 people were killed in intercommunal violence in Duekoue. Duekoue was captured by Ouattara's forces on March 29.

April 4/5 - Gbagbo is negotiating his departure from power, following a fierce assault by forces loyal to his rival, backed by U.N. and French helicopter airstrikes.

(Writing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit; Additional writing by Richard Valdmanis)
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