February 11, 2011 / 6:54 PM / in 9 years

U.S. accepts Ouattara Ivory Coast envoy

WASHINGTON, Feb 11 (Reuters) - The United States has formally accepted a new Ivory Coast ambassador appointed by presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara, who is locked in a power struggle with incumbent Laurent Gbagbo.

Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg accepted the credentials of the new ambassador, Daouda Diabate, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said on Friday.

A spokeswoman at the Ivory Coast embassy in Washington had no comment.

The Obama administration has sided firmly with Ouattara, who was declared winner of a Nov. 28 election by United Nations-certified results before they were overturned by a pro-Gbagbo legal body, which alleged fraud.

The United States has joined the European Union in placing travel sanctions on Gbagbo and members of his inner circle over his refusal to step down.

The United Nations mission in Ivory Coast said on Thursday that at least 296 people had been killed in post-election violence since the middle of December, many killed in clashes between Ouattara supporters and security forces.

The African Union last month gave five African leaders a one month mandate to try to seek a resolution to the crisis that is supposed to be binding on both sides.

Several previous AU mediation efforts have failed, however, and Gbagbo has rejected huge international pressure, financial sanctions and threats of force by West African neighbors.

The November election was supposed to draw a line under years of political and military stalemate since a 2002-03 war partitioned the world’s top cocoa-growing country, but has only worsened divisions. (Reporting by Andrew Quinn; editing by Eric Beech)

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