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Ouattara sits down with key pro-Gbagbo official

Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara on Thursday met with constitutional court head Paul Yao N'Dre, who had declared incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo the winner of Ivory Coast's disputed Nov. 28 presidential elections, sparking months of deadly unrest.


AFP - Ivory Coast's President Alassane Ouattara met Thursday with the top court official who had declared he had lost to the ousted leader Laurent Gbagbo in the disputed November elections.

Ouattara received constitutional court chief Paul Yao N'Dre at Abidjan's Golf Hotel where he has been based since the post-election crisis triggered by the court official's December 3 vote results announcement.

Yao N'Dre said Gbagbo had won 51.45 percent of the vote, invalidating UN-certified results that gave Ouattara 54.1 percent, plunging the west African country into months of bloody unrest.

But Yao N'Dre laid the blame on all Ivorians.

"We are all responsible for what happened; the current president, the former president Gbagbo, citizens, the media that inflamed it, everybody. There you go," said a visibly tense Yao N'Dre when asked if he felt responsible.

"There is no individual responsibility. It is not about individuals, it is the institutions," he said, adding: "We need to rebuild Ivory Coast, everyone, in a spirit of solidarity, love and fraternity."

Ouattara has taken power after his forces, backed by United Nations and French troops, captured Gbagbo on April 11 after he refused to step down despite Ouattara being the internationally recognised election winner.

Without giving a specific date, the new president said he will be sworn in in the second half of May in the central city of Yamoussoukrou and voiced hope that legislative polls would be held before the end of the year.

"The swearing in should be held in the second half of May ... The government should be formed after the swearing in," Ouattara told the TCI television.

The constitutional court chief met with Quattara, who has vowed a policy of reconciliation, after the president received allegiances from the country's top military officers and the heads of the main institutions.

In another sign of normalisation, the African Union, which had suspended Ivory Coast on December 9 in the wake of the crisis, lifted the restriction on Thursday.

However, Ouattara's administration is still struggling to restore security in the country and has faced resistance in the main city Abidjan from die-hard pro-Gbagbo militia.

Pockets of defiant fighters in the northwestern Yopougon district have refused to lay down arms.

Government forces launched an offensive Wednesday to dislodge the militants without success, but a military official said they halted the operation to allow negotiations with those willing to disarm.

"We stopped the offensive. We have not yet reached the areas they are holding because negotiations are going on," said the official who identified himself only as Commander Zoua.

"We are in touch with the elements who want to disarm. We are discussing the modalities and we hope that it will not be a hopeless effort."

Families were however still streaming out of the militia-held zone to safer districts.

"There has been no fighting since yesterday, but it is almost deserted and people are continuing to leave," a resident said.

Gbagbo has been placed under house arrest at a secret location in the north of the country.

Senegal's Foreign Minister Madicke Niang on Thursday warned against impunity and said Gbagbo's fate should serve as an example for Africa.

"Being against all forms of impunity, we are putting in place means that should bar a repeat of such acts," Niang said during a visit to Abidjan.

"Africa should be a continent of good governance and democracy. For that, examples should be set," said Niang, whose country strongly backed Ouattara during the crisis.

His comments came a day after Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, a former African Union mediator to Ivory Coast, urged Ouattara to let Gbagbo choose to live in exile if he wished.

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