Gbagbo negotiating exit from Ivory Coast

Tue Apr 5, 2011 3:24pm GMT

By Tim Cocks and Ange Aboa

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Ivory Coast's Laurent Gbagbo was negotiating the terms of his departure from power on Tuesday following a fierce assault by forces loyal to his presidential rival backed by U.N. and French helicopter airstrikes.

France said it expected a swift exit by Gbagbo, who had clung to power since refusing to concede he lost last November's presidential election to Alassane Ouattara, plunging the world's top cocoa-growing nation into renewed civil war.

"We are on the brink of convincing him to leave power," French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told parliament in Paris.

A Gbagbo spokesman said the incumbent was negotiating the terms of his departure based on the recognition of Ouattara as president. The spokesman said the negotiations covered security guarantees for Gbagbo and his relatives.

"If everything goes well, we will have a declaration soon," Ahoua Don Mello told Reuters.

Gbagbo was said to be in Abidjan, with some media reports saying he was in a bunker below his residence.

Gbagbo's forces called for a ceasefire after being comprehensively outgunned in the end, and French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet said the West African country's crisis could soon be over.

"We are in a situation where everything could be resolved in the next few hours," Longuet told a news conference.   Continued...

<p>A soldier loyal to Ivory Coast presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara lies on a road as fighting flares across the country's main city Abidjan April 4, 2011. U.N. and French helicopters attacked Laurent Gbagbo's last strongholds in Abidjan on Monday as forces loyal to Ouattara streamed into the city from the north. REUTERS/Emmanuel Braun</p>
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.