Ivorian troops kill protesters, AU team arrives

Mon Feb 21, 2011 6:16pm GMT

By Tim Cocks and Ange Aboa

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Ivorian troops killed at least six protesters calling on Laurent Gbagbo to step down as leader on Monday, witnesses said, as African presidents charged with resolving Ivory Coast's crisis arrived in Abidjan.

A dispute over the presidential election in November has paralysed the country and led to the deaths of about 300 people.

The election, meant to bring stability after a decade of economic and political stagnation in the world's biggest cocoa-producing country, has instead left it as divided as ever and its economy in disarray.

Alassane Ouattara is widely recognised internationally as the victor but Gbagbo has refused to cede power.

Cocoa exports have dried up, driving futures prices to new highs. International banks have shut down operations.

A source who had access to preparatory talks on Sunday said the African panel would insist that Gbagbo stand down, in return for guarantees, to allow Ouattara to take charge of the west African country in accordance with to U.N.-certified results.

There was no statement from the leaders. Gbagbo has previously rejected similar proposals.

The two rivals have formed opposing, parallel governments, although Ouattara remains restricted to a lagoon-side hotel protected by a ring of U.N. peacekeepers.   Continued...

<p>Protesters, calling for Ivory Coast's incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo to step down, gesture on a street in Koumassi, an area of Abidjan, February 19, 2011. Ivorian security forces fired live bullets and teargas on Saturday to disperse protesters in Abidjan, wounding at least one of them, witnesses said. Gbagbo's rival, Alassane Ouattara, has called for Egypt-style mass protests to oust him, who has refused to step down as leader of the world's top cocoa grower after a Nov. 28 presidential election that U.N.-certified results show Ouattara won. REUTERS/Luc Gnago</p>
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