Ivory Coast`s Gbagbo pressured to concede presidency

The UN, US, EU all throw their weight behind opposition candidate Ouattara.

Abidjan: Ivory Coast`s bloody election standoff escalated on Saturday with world powers urging long-term President Laurent Gbagbo to make way for his old rival Alassane Ouattara.

With both candidates claiming victory and the United Nations, United States and European Union all throwing their weight behind Ouattara, Ivorians waited anxiously for the next move by Gbagbo, clinging on after a decade in power.

State television said early Saturday that a ceremony was planned to confirm Gbagbo in office at midday and broadcast pictures of him meeting military leaders who it said pledged allegiance to him.

The Constitutional Council, the country`s highest court run by the President`s allies, had declared Gbagbo the winner, tightening the deadlock as fears mounted of more deadly unrest.

But Ouattara defied Gbagbo, declaring himself president-elect as the international community began to fall in behind him on Friday.

"I am the elected president of the Republic of Ivory Coast," Ouattara told reporters.

"The Constitutional Council has abused its authority, the whole world knows it, and I am sorry for my country`s image."

Both sides had traded allegations of cheating in the vote and Gbagbo`s camp tried to have results annulled in Ouattara`s northern stronghold, but the United Nations judged the polls sound overall.

Gbagbo`s camp remained defiant as Ouattara won international backing, threatening to expel the United Nations envoy to the country.

US President Barack Obama urged Gbagbo to acknowledge defeat or face the consequences.

"The international community will hold those who act to thwart the democratic process and the will of the electorate accountable for their actions," he warned.

Earlier on Friday, supporters of the incumbent hit the streets yelling "Gbagbo, president!" in Abidjan, Ivory Coast`s main city.

Ouattara`s backers set fire to tyres to protest against the Constitutional Council ruling against their candidate.

"They`re stealing our victory!" yelled one Ouattara supporter.

Gbagbo had sealed the country`s borders and jammed foreign news broadcasts on Thursday and a nightly curfew remained in place.

Ouattara`s campaign director Amadou Gon Coulibaly suggested to reporters on Friday that Gbagbo might be plotting a "putsch".

The New Forces former rebel movement which controls the north of the country, led by Prime Minister Guillaume Soro who entered Gbagbo`s government under a peace accord, also backed Ouattara.

Ban, in a statement from New York, called on Gbagbo "to do his part for the good of the country and to cooperate in a smooth political transition”.

Gbagbo`s camp reacted angrily, showing no sign of giving in and threatening to throw out UN envoy Choi Young-jin.

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and French President Nicolas Sarkozy also recognised Ouattara as the new president and called for a peaceful transfer of power.

Bureau Report