Battle for Abidjan eases | world | Hindustan Times
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Battle for Abidjan eases

world Updated: Apr 05, 2011 23:37 IST

Ivory Coast’s Laurent Gbagbo was negotiating the terms of his departure from power on Tuesday following a fierce assault by forces loyal to his presidential rival backed by UN and French helicopter airstrikes.

France said it expected a swift exit by Gbagbo, who had clung to power since refusing to concede he lost last November’s presidential election to Alassane Ouattara, plunging the world’s top cocoa-growing nation into renewed civil war.

“We are on the brink of convincing him to leave power,” French foreign minister Alain Juppe told parliament in Paris.

A Gbagbo spokesman said the incumbent was negotiating the terms of his departure based on the recognition of Ouattara as president.

The spokesman said the negotiations covered security guarantees for Gbagbo and his relatives.

“If everything goes well, we will have a declaration soon,” Ahoua Don Mello told Reuters.

Ouattara was said to be Abidjan, with some media reports saying he was in a bunker below his residence. Gbagbo’s forces called for a ceasefire after being comprehensively outgunned in the end, and French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet said the West African country’s crisis could soon be over.

“We are in a situation where everything could be resolved in the next few hours,” Longuet told a news conference. US President Barack Obama called on Gbagbo to stand down immediately and order his fighters to lay down their arms. The United Nations mission in the country said Gbagbo’s army chiefs had asked their men surrender their arms to UN forces and seek protection.