May 19, 2013
Gbagbo negotiating exit from Ivory Coast
Ivory Coast's Laurent Gbagbo was negotiating the terms of his departure following a fierce assault by forces loyal to his rival and backed by UN and French helicopter air strikes.
But Gbagbo, who has refused to cede power after a UN certified election showed he lost to rival Alassane Ouattara, told French TV channel LCI that his army had called for a ceasefire, denying reports he was ready to surrender.
He reiterated that he considered himself the winner of last November's elections, saying it was not his intention to cling to power to the bitter end.
"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," Gbagbo said.
A United Nations internal document said Gbagbo had surrendered. A UN official, under condition of anonymity, said later that Gbagbo had not yet done so but had suggested he wanted to, and had requested UN protection.
Gbagbo government spokesman Ahoua Don Mello, who was taking part in the negotiations, told Reuters by phone from Abidjan that the parties were still in talks.
"Some points are still being discussed. Nothing has been signed, Gbagbo has not signed anything," Don Mello said.
The UN document said fighting in Abidjan and elsewhere in the country had stopped since midday local time, and that Ivory Coast's generals had asked the UN peacekeeper force to protect pro-Gbagbo soldiers and take possession of all their weapons.
France said it expected a swift exit by Gbagbo, who had clung to power since refusing to concede he lost last November's presidential election to Alassane Ouattara, plunging the world's top cocoa-growing nation into renewed civil war.
"We are on the brink of convincing him to leave power," French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told parliament in Paris.
Don Mello said the Gbagbo was negotiating the terms of his departure based on the recognition of Ouattara as president. The spokesman said the negotiations covered security guarantees for Gbagbo and his relatives.
Gbagbo was said to be in Abidjan, with some media reports saying he was in a bunker below his residence.
"It looks like Gbagbo is trying to negotiate his way out. What he can offer is another matter ... his negotiating position is much weaker than a couple of weeks ago," said Hannah Koep, Ivory Coast analyst at London-based consultancy Control Risks.
The conflict drove cocoa prices lower as dealers bet on a swift end to Gbagbo's rule and a resumption of exports. The country's defaulted $2.3 billion Eurobond rose as the assault raised expectations for repayment.