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African leaders to meet on Ivory Coast, revolts

ADDIS ABABA, Jan 30 – African leaders will make a fresh bid to resolve the Ivory Coast crisis and respond to the latest political uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt at a two-day summit starting Sunday.

Pre-summit meetings at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa made a new proposal to task five heads of state to reach a deal to end the two-month leadership wrangle between Ivorian strongman Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara, recognised as winner of their disputed November polls.

The panel will aim to help Ouattara "exercise power" through a negotiated deal, AU Commission chief Jean Ping said on the eve of the summit.

"There was a reaffirmation of the decision to recognise Ouattara as the president-elect," he told reporters.

The AU mediator to the crisis, Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, urged the summit to send a "strong and unequivocal message that the two parties must negotiate face-to-face."

The AU\’s efforts to end the Ivorian crisis and respond to the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt come as it is poised to appoint as its chairman Equatorial Guinea\’s President Teodoro Obiang Nguema who himself came to power through a coup in 1979.

The AU has yet to react to the popular revolt in Tunisia where weeks of protests ended the 23-year-old rule of president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

On Saturday the bloc said it was "concerned" by the political unrest in Egypt which has claimed over 100 lives in five days.

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"Egypt is going through a situation which we need to observe. It is a worrying situation," Ping told reporters Saturday.

"After what happened in Tunisia, we are observing the events elsewhere and we are concerned," he added.

Following south Sudan\’s referendum in which voters have chosen to secede, a special meeting on Sudan is to be held Monday between Sudan\’s President Omar al-Bashir, his deputy Salva Kiir, also the president of south Sudan, UN chief Ban Ki-moon and Ethiopian premier Meles Zenawi.

Kenya meanwhile has been lobbying African leaders to give their backing to deferring the cases of top officials named by the International Criminal Court\’s prosecutor as suspects in the 2007-2008 deadly post-election violence.


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