AU's Odinga cuts short Ivory Coast mission

Wed Jan 19, 2011 7:46am GMT

By Tim Cocks

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - The African Union's mediator for Ivory Coast will cut short a trip to the country, his spokesman said on Tuesday, after failing to make a breakthrough in efforts to resolve the country's power struggle.

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga arrived for talks on Monday and had been initially expected to stay for some days as part of efforts to persuade Laurent Gbagbo to step aside as president after an election his rival Alassane Ouattara is widely recognised to have won.

"No, he's not given up on this process," Odinga's spokesman Salim Lone told Reuters by telephone. "He's leaving tomorrow morning, then going to Ghana, Burkina Faso and South Africa to push for the AU leaders to respect the AU position (that Gbagbo must step down)".

Lone, who earlier said Odinga believed he was making progress, did not give a reason for the curtailed visit, the latest in a series of failed efforts to force Gbagbo out.

Ouattara is recognised by Western and African governments as president-elect, after the electoral commission proclaimed him winner of the November 28 presidential poll and the results were certified by the U.N. mission.

However, Gbagbo has refused to step down and he retains control of government buildings, state television and the security forces, while Ouattara's parallel administration is based in a U.N.-guarded hotel under siege by pro-Gbagbo forces.

Gbagbo has said he is ready for talks but Ouattara says they are only possible once Gbagbo has stepped down.

Ouattara's prime minister, Guillaume Soro, called for a "dead nation" -- a general strike starting on Tuesday, after two previous strike calls went unheeded. Traffic was only slightly lighter on Abidjan's palm-lined roads and many shops were open.   Continued...

Powered by Reuters AlertNet. AlertNet provides news, images and insight from the world's disasters and conflicts and is brought to you by Reuters Foundation.