Ceasefire in place for Cote d'Ivoire's Gbagbo departure
Ceasefire is apparently...
Ceasefire is apparently in place hours after calls on Tuesday from Cote d`Ivoire`s incumbent Laurent Gbagbo, who is reportedly negotiating terms of departure from power after the final offensive launched the previous day by the rival forces backed by French and UN troops, according to Xinhua.
The military offensive has halted in Abidjan, the biggest city of Cote d`Ivoire, although sporadic gunfire could be heard.
Gbagbo is being holed up in a bunker at his residence in the city, which has witnessed a decisive war over the control of the West African country since last week.
Amid reports of on-going negotiations, the latest indicated his unwillingness to surrender power to his presidential rival Alassane Outtara under the international pressure.
On the French TV channel LCI, the 65-year-old outgoing president late Tuesday voiced his legality as the country`s leader, saying "Ouattara has not won the elections."
Meanwhile, he admitted that he is not "a kamikaze." "I love life. I do not wish to die. It is not my objective to die," he added.
The remarks were aired after the French presidential office denied speculation that Gbagbo had submitted to the demand for surrender in exchange for protection.
The negotiations were still going on, the office said, clarifying that Gbagbo had not surrendered.
Several high-racking generals of the pro-Gbagbo forces defected since the Abidjan battle erupted last week, including the commander of land forces, general Firmin Detoh Letoh.
Earlier on Tuesday, the African Union (AU) renewed the call that Gbagbo hand over power to Outtara to end the months-old crisis in Cote d`Ivoire.
The AU has sent several high-level missions to Abidjan to persuade Gbagbo to give up power peacefully, but failed to make a breakthrough.
While the AU made another try, the African bloc`s current chairman, Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, on Tuesday denounced foreign military intervention in Cote d`Ivoire and Libya, stressing Africa`s right to handle its own affairs.
The pro-Outtara Republican Forces launched the southward military march in December, after seeing no signs of recession from Gbagbo in the political standoff over the presidency.
Gbagbo insists that he be the winner of the Nov. 28 presidential run-off declared by the Constitutional Council, in rejection of the election results published by the electoral commission showing the victory of Outtara.
The Republican Forces escalated the military advances in the past week, taking a series of important towns before reaching Abidjan on Thursday.
But the offensive met with strong resistance from the elite special forces and the Republican Guard loyal to Gbagbo, whose fighters regained control of the state television after counter- offensives.
On Monday, the French Licorne troops and the UN mission in Cote d`Ivoire (ONUCI) joined the final raid on Gbagbo`s last bastions in the city, citing a recent UN resolution to protest civilian population from attacks by Gbagbo`s forces.
French and ONUCI helicopters fired at the arsenals of the pro- Gbagbo forces, detonating explosions to neutralize heavy weaponry, including artillery and armored vehicles.
The French Licorne troops deployed in Cote d`Ivoire has increased to 1,650 after the recent reinforcement. ONUCI has at least 9,800 personnel in the warring West African country.
On Tuesday, Gbagbo`s chief of general staff, General Touvoly Bi Zogbo, asked ONUCI "for an immediate ceasefire."
Gbagbo`s Foreign Minister Alcide Djedje also said he was sent to the French Embassy in Abidjan to negotiate a truce.
Meanwhile, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon told the National Assembly that two close associates of Gbagbo "were on the course of negotiating the conditions of surrender."
Information from Paris also said French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has demanded Gbagbo sign a document to cede power to Outtara after ruling the country for a decade.
The ongoing war is the second in the country since 2002, when the country was divided into Gbagbo`s south and the north controlled by ex-rebel New Forces, the backbone of the newly formed Republican Forces.
Last year`s elections were expected to end the long-standing division, but the power struggle over the top post unleashed another all-out war.
According to the latest information, up to 1,500 people have been killed in the post-election violence and more than 1 million people have fled their homes, with many taking shelter in neighboring Liberia and Guinea.
Massive evacuations of foreigners from the country were reported in the past week, while the French government accused Gbagbo`s men of abducting several foreigners including French nationals.
Cote d`Ivoire, the world`s top cocoa producer, won independence from France in 1960. There are an estimated 20,000 French nationals in the country.