Abidjan: Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo defied a global avalanche of criticism, insisting he is the true president of his country and vowing that UN and French troops will have to go.
Gbagbo accused the international community of "making war" on his people, but insisted he did not want to see more bloodshed and offered to allow envoys from world powers to form a panel to study the post-election crisis.
The offer seems likely to fall on deaf ears, as the United Nations has recognised Gbagbo`s rival Alassane Ouattara as victor of the disputed poll and accuses the incumbent`s forces of carrying out death squad-style killings.
But, in his first televised address since he declared himself re-elected, the 65-year-old political veteran appeared determined to hang on.
"I won the election with 51.45 per cent of the vote. I am president of Ivory Coast. I thank the Ivorians who renewed their faith in me," Gbagbo said on state television.
Both Gbagbo and long-time rival Ouattara claimed victory after the November 28 poll, triggering a violent political dispute.
"The troubles we see today in Ivory Coast are caused by the refusal of my opponent to submit himself to the laws, rules and procedures that apply in our country," Gbagbo continued, blaming Ouattara and the international community.
"They make war on us not because we suppressed the democratic expression of Ivorians, but because they deny the Ivorian people`s sovereign right to choose its own leaders, respect its institutions and live in a free country."
Nevertheless, Gbagbo said he did not want "the blood of a single Ivorian spilled" and suggested world powers send a panel to study the crisis, although seemingly not to call into question his purported victory.
"I am therefore ready -- respecting the constitution, Ivorian laws and the rules that we freely set for ourselves -- to welcome a committee of evaluation on the post-election crisis in Ivory Coast," he declared.