, ABIDJAN, Dec 10 – Laurent Gbagbo wants to "sit down and talk" with Alassane Ouattara, the internationally-endorsed leader rivalling him for power in Ivory Coast after disputed elections, a press report said Friday.
"Let\’s sit down and talk," the state daily Fraternite Matin quoted Gbagbo as saying, as international and internal pressure mounted on Gbagbo to end his decade in power following last month\’s fiercely contested vote.
The newspaper quoted Gbagbo as telling traditional leaders whom he hosted at the presidential palace that "there will be no war" in Ivory Coast, despite widespread warnings that his standoff with Ouattara could erupt into unrest.
Gbagbo faces growing isolation and pressure to quit power after disputed polls, with world powers freezing him out and his rivals on Thursday openly appealing for the army to switch allegiance to Ouattara\’s administration.
Ouattara\’s side earlier said it aimed to make "effective" its authority in Ivory Coast this week. Gbagbo\’s comments quoted Friday were the first sign of moves by him to tackle the deadlock.
Gbagbo still has nominal control of the national military while Soro has a smaller army of several thousand northern New Forces (FN) troops behind him and has warned Gbagbo they could mobilise if he does not budge.
The United Nations Security Council, the African Union and other key international players have demanded that Gbagbo step aside for Ouattara.