Abidjan: An African mediator was expected in Ivory Coast as supporters of internationally recognised president, Alassane Ouattara, called for a fresh general strike to force incumbent Laurent Gbagbo to stand down.
The African Union`s mediator, Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, was in Abuja, holding talks with the head of the ECOWAS regional bloc, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, on how to end the crisis.
Odinga was expected to return to Ivory Coast`s commercial capital Abidjan on Monday or Tuesday, with ECOWAS having brandished the threat of military action to force Gbagbo to stand down.
The RHDP, a coalition of pro-Ouattara parties, called in a statement on Sunday for all citizens in the crisis-stricken nation to stop work from Tuesday until embattled strongman Gbagbo moves out.
It called on "public and private sector workers, transport workers, shopkeepers, artisans, workers, farmers" to observe the strike, amid floundering international efforts to mediate an end to the crisis.
"Despite multiple mediations... Gbagbo is holding on to power and taking our country Ivory Coast inexorably towards uncertain tomorrows," the statement said.
A previous general strike called by Ouattara`s camp in the cocoa-rich nation on December 27 failed to build momentum and was largely ignored by workers in Abidjan.
Likewise, a December call by Ouattara`s prime minister, former rebel leader Guillaume Soro, had little effect.
Odinga`s first trip to Abidjan since being appointed as mediator ended on January 05 with little tangible progress after Gbagbo failed to make good on promises that mediators said he made.
The African Union and 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have struggled to mediate between Gbagbo and the man the world says won a November 28 presidential runoff.
More than 200 people have died since the vote. Most of the world, the United Nations and the Independent Electoral Commission say that Quattara is the winner and he has been sworn in as president.
The constitutional council has declared Gbagbo the winner, and he has also been sworn in as president.
Ouattara has for weeks been holed up in an Abidjan hotel resort, with United Nations peacekeepers and northern ex-rebels protecting his camp from the Army, which remains loyal to the incumbent.
A cascade of African leaders have shuttled between the two men sworn in as president in recent weeks, with ECOWAS threatening military action as a last resort if Gbagbo refuses to hand over power.
The United Nations mission in the country says that Gbagbo`s supporters have stepped up their attacks on peacekeepers there, with several UN vehicles torched on Thursday, although Gbagbo`s camp has denied involvement.
The UN wants to send up to 2,000 extra peacekeepers to Ivory Coast, but a Security Council vote on the extra troops has been delayed until Tuesday.
ECOWAS defence chiefs are to meet in the Malian capital Bamako from Wednesday for talks focused on how to deal with Ivory Coast`s crisis.
At least six people were injured in political clashes in Ivory Coast`s capital Yamoussoukro on Sunday.