AFP - The head of the West African bloc ECOWAS on Tuesday slammed attempts to compromise with Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo, saying international solidarity against him had waned.
James Victor Gbeho also singled out South Africa for criticism over what he said was Pretoria's decision to send a warship to Ivory Coast.
The 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has threatened to use force if Gbagbo does not step down.
"We find that others are encouraging Gbagbo not to yield ...," ECOWAS commission president James Victor Gbeho told journalists at a presentation by European Union observers on the Ivory Coast elections in November.
"The solidarity that started among us in the international community is fast being eroded."
Gbeho also said he was disappointed with moves on the crisis by the African Union.
Following a recent African Union summit, experts sent by an AU panel tasked with mediating peace in Ivory Coast met representatives of both sides in the crisis this week.
Asked whether he was disappointed with the AU's position, Gbeho said, "yes, in a way, because there was the attempt to unravel what this region was doing...
"I also think that any attempt to change the result that the Ivorian electorate have out of their own free will mandated, it's something that we should all regret, and I do hope that it will not come to that in the final analysis."
Gbeho did not discuss details in his criticism of the South African frigate he said had been sent to Ivory Coast.
"As we talk now, there is a South African warship docked in Cote d'Ivoire," he said. "Action such as that can only complicate the matter further.
"I'm surprised that a distinguished country like South Africa would decide to send a frigate to Ivory Coast at this time."
A South African newspaper reported on January 31 that the SAS Drakensberg had been deployed to West Africa to "provide support" and evacuate the South African embassy if necessary.
South Africa's defence ministry has declined to comment.
ECOWAS, which has suspended Ivory Coast from the bloc, has recognised Gbagbo's rival Alassane Ouattara as president and demanded that Gbagbo quit power.
However, the regional bloc faces difficulties in mustering troops for a military intervention.
Nigeria, which would likely be expected to provide the bulk of a regional force, will hold elections in April and is seeking to stem unrest in several parts of the country. Ghana, also an ECOWAS member, opposes the use of force.
"The concern that some of us have is that apparently, because of certain geopolitical interests, some countries are keen on awarding a failure mark to ECOWAS heads of state," Gbeho said.
"They are saying that the whole matter should be looked at, that it seems Gbagbo was the winner, and if that is the situation then they must negotiate."
Gbeho said ECOWAS was not opposed to dialogue, but such talks must end with Ouattara as head of state.
The EU observers to the vote presented their report in Abuja because they said they could not obtain fresh visas to do so in Ivory Coast.
Their report, which recognised Ouattara as the victor and ruled out the need for a recount, had previously been presented in Brussels last month.