UN presses I.Coast on presidential vote

December 2, 2010 12:00 am

, ABIDJAN, Dec 2 – Ivory Coast\’s landmark presidential election was deadlocked Thursday after a deadline for results passed with no winner despite world powers urging a resolution amid fears of fresh unrest.

As the midnight deadline came and went, election authorities were still working on results of Sunday\’s hotly-contested vote, marred by violence that has killed at least seven people and mutual allegations of cheating.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon responded by calling for the provisional results to be published "without further delay" and the UN Security Council ordered special consultations on the west African nation for Thursday.

The high-stakes presidential run-off between President Laurent Gbagbo and rival Alassane Ouattara aimed to end a decade of instability in Ivory Coast, the world\’s top cocoa producer.

But tension mounted as the results, which had been scheduled for release on Tuesday, continued to be delayed.

"There are major issues… We are still working," the head of the electoral commission, Youssouf Bakoyoko, said in televised comments minutes before midnight, adding that the body was seeking a consensus on the results.

"I ask people to be patient and understanding and to give us time to work in peace."

Ouattara\’s camp insisted results were ready and should be announced immediately but Gbagbo\’s backers accused the opposition of fraud and urged that polls in several regions be scrapped.

Troops were deployed around the main city of Abidjan, which remained tense and quiet as residents awaited the outcome of the vote. Gbagbo extended a curfew, in place since the eve of the election, until Sunday.

Reporters were kept waiting outside the electoral commission\’s headquarters, which were surrounded by soldiers and police as various diplomats came and went on Wednesday.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy also called on electoral authorities to announce a result and, along with the African Union, European Union and the United States, urged Ivorians to accept the outcome peacefully.

The commission was legally obliged to announce a winner by the end of Wednesday, and the result must also be confirmed by the Constitutional Council, which is headed by a close ally of Gbagbo.

Chaotic scenes had prevented results being announced earlier amid accusations of cheating by both sides, though the United Nations said the election was sound overall.

A supporter of Gbagbo in the commission seized papers with partial results from the hands of a spokesman who was about to read them out to reporters and tore them up, before the spokesman was escorted away by police.

Gbagbo\’s spokesman Pascal Affi N\’Guessan told a news conference Wednesday his side was applying to the commission and the Constitutional Council to contest results in four regions, including the opposition stronghold of Bouake.

"We will do all in our power for the results in all areas where fraud took place in the elections to be annulled, so that the outcome of the ballots reflects the real opinion of our countrymen," N\’Guessan said.

A spokesman for Ouattara\’s camp, Albert Mabri Toikeusse, earlier accused Gbagbo\’s allies of blocking the results and attempting a "confiscation of power," and of "aiming to drive the country once again into chaos."

The election is intended to end years of crisis in the west African country, which was split in two when former rebels of the New Forces took control of the north after a foiled coup against Gbagbo in 2002.

UN chief Ban warned: "Any disruption in the electoral process would not be in the interest of the people of (Ivory Coast) or the future stability of the country."


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