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Deadly clashes in Ivory Coast

ABIDJAN, Feb 22 – Fresh clashes erupted between supporters of the Ivory Coast\’s rival presidents Monday, with army gunfire killing one civilian, as four African leaders launched a new bid to break the impasse.

At least a dozen people were also injured in clashes in Abidjan between forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo, who refuses to concede defeat after the November 28 election, and the internationally recognised winner of the poll, witnesses said.

Three Ouattara supporters were killed in violence in the city on Saturday while security forces loyal Gbagbo announced Monday they had lost three men in the unrest in the past two weeks.

Soldiers with Gbagbo opened fire Monday with live ammunition to disperse young supporters of Ouattara who had made barricades of tables and burning tyres in Abidjan, residents said.

A man crossing the road was shot dead, they said. Pro-Ouattara supporters have called for a "revolution" similar to one that toppled president Hosni Mubarak in Egypt early this month.

Youths in the southern Koumassi district and the northern Abobo region, both strongholds of Ouattara, tried meanwhile to reach rally points but security forces opened fire to disperse them, witnesses said.

With tensions escalating amid fears of civil war, the presidents of Chad, Mauritania, South Africa and Tanzania arrived in the regional economic power with a new set of proposals to break the impasse.

Chad\’s Idriss Deby Itno, Mauritania\’s Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, South Africa\’s Jacob Zuma and Jikaya Kikwete from Tanzania went to the presidential palace where they met with Gbagbo.

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None of the leaders made any comments after the more than two-hour meeting.

They had first gathered in the Mauritanian capital on Sunday with other African Union leaders to draw up a strategy to end a deadlock and post-election violence that has already claimed about 300 lives, according to United Nations\’ figures.

They came to Abidjan to present to the rivals their proposals for resolving the crisis, officials said. They will have until February 28 to come up with "binding" resolutions.

The mission follows others by various African leaders to mediate an end to the impasse, all of which have failed despite economic sanctions and threats of military intervention by a west African regional bloc.

A fifth president at the Nouakchott talks, Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso, would not make the trip "due to security reasons", his office said.

Compaore has been accused by Gbagbo supporters of backing Outtara, recognised by most of the international community as the winner.

More than 1,000 pro-Gbagbo supporters gathered at the airport in Abidjan on Sunday night to oppose his visit.

Mauritania\’s president said before Sunday\’s talks: "The negative repercussions of this crisis which we strongly deplore is severely affecting our Ivorian brothers, the sub-region and Africa as a whole."

The rival Ivorian sides have however expressed serious reservations about the composition of the African Union panel and its chances of breaking the stalemate.

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Ouattara\’s prime minister Guillaume Soro told a French newspaper on Sunday he did not believe the mediation would succeed "because Laurent Gbagbo will never accept hearing that he lost the elections and must cede power".

Gbagbo, who has ruled the world\’s leading coco-producer since 2000, has moved to nationalise international banks as he struggles to hold on to power, leading several to suspend operations in Ivory Coast.

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