Sun, Oct 08, 2006 - Page 6 News List

African heads look to UN to help settle Ivory Coast impasse


West African leaders met to unblock a stalemate in war-divided Ivory Coast but resolved instead to let the UN decide what follows when President Laurent Gbagbo's already extended term runs out at the end of last month.

Gbagbo, who survived a 2002 coup attempt that spiraled into a civil war and left Ivory Coast partitioned, was meant to arrange long-postponed elections before Oct. 31, when his extra year in power is supposed to end.

With no balloting in sight and rebels saying they won't accept Gbagbo after the end of the month, leaders from the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) were scheduled to discuss a new plan of action at a summit in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.

"We are all concerned that there will be a [power] vacuum," Mohammed ibn Chambas, the executive secretary of ECOWAS, told reporters after the meeting Friday.

With elections not feasible, the UN Security Council, whose resolution 1633 had extended Gbagbo's term, will have to decide what follows when the term ends, Chambas said.

Proposals discussed at Friday's meeting will be presented at a summit of the African Union later this month before final recommendations are made to the UN, he said.

In attendance at the meeting was Gbagbo, his national-unity Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny and leaders from Guinea-Bisssau, Cape Verde, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Senegal, Niger, Liberia and Togo. Rebel leader Guillaume Soro wasn't invited and it was unclear if he had traveled to Abuja.

Some 10,000 UN and French peacekeepers are guarding front lines between the rebel-controlled north and government-held south in the world's largest producer of cocoa.

While peace deals mostly calmed fighting within months of the war's beginning, few of the pacts' tenets have been put in place since.

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