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Five African presidents to meet on Ivory Coast crisis

Five African heads of state, UN and African Union leaders were to meet in Nouakchott on Sunday to seek a solution to Ivory Coast's political impasse, as doubt rises over the success of mediation efforts.

world Updated: Feb 20, 2011 18:31 IST

Five African heads of state, UN and African Union leaders were to meet in Nouakchott on Sunday to seek a solution to Ivory Coast's political impasse, as doubt rises over the success of mediation efforts.

The meeting in Nouakchott comes as tensions escalate in Abidjan where at least three youths were shot dead on Saturday when security forces loyal to strongman Laurent Gbagbo cracked down on supporters of his rival Alassane Ouattara.

Since presidential elections on November 28, Gbagbo has refused to cede power to his rival, recognised by most of the international community as the rightful winner.

The five presidents were charged by the AU in January to come up with solutions to the Ivorian crisis.

However Gbagbo and his supporters are strongly opposed to the presence of Blaise Compaore, accused of supporting Ouattara and the New Forces (FN) rebels.

Outtara'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."

"The solution is not power sharing but the installation of democratic rules accepted by all" failing which, the solution would be a "revolution" as seen recently in Egypt and Tunisia.

While initially united in backing Ouattara, the AU now seems divided, with Jacob Zuma, Uganda's Yoweri Museveni and Angola's Jose Eduardo Dos Santos seeking a negotiated solution.

The softened approach has also seen them against a military intervention to remove him from power as put forward by the Economic Community of West African States.

Mauritania's Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz is chairing the panel composed of South Africa's Zuma, Compaore of Burkina Faso, Idriss Deby of Chad and Tanzania's Jikaya Kikwete.

The first four leaders have already arrived and Kikwete is expected around midday, according to an official source.

Jean Ping, chairman of the AU Commission, and Said Djinitt, the UN representative in West Africa, are also present in the Mauritanian capital.

The team heads to Abidjan on Monday to present their proposal to the two rivals, and will have a week to come up with "binding" resolutions.