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AU mediator sets Ivory Coast return

11 January 2011, 11:38

Nairobi - The African Union's mediator in the Ivorian crisis, Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, is expected to fly back to the troubled west African country this week, his spokesperson said on Tuesday.

"The PM has indicated that he will return to Ivory Coast this week. The date of his return will be either Thursday or Friday," Dennis Onyango told AFP.

"He will first meet and brief the chairperson of the AU Commission Jean Ping in Nairobi on Wednesday before setting off for Ivory Coast," the spokesperson said.

Odinga's first trip to Abidjan since being appointed as mediator by the continental body ended on January 05 with little tangible progress in resolving a standoff that has brought Ivory Coast back to the brink of civil war.

The Kenyan premier claimed to have clinched a deal whereby the November 28 Ivorian presidential election rivals, incumbent Laurent Gbagbo and opposition leader Alassane Ouattara, would meet.

He also said Gbagbo had agreed to lift the blockade on the hotel used as headquarters by Ouattara but neither claim materialised.

Wide composite cabinet

Both men have declared themselves the winner of the election, which was meant to bring an end to a protracted political crisis in the country.

Ouattara was declared the winner by the electoral body but Gbagbo challenged the results and has since dug in his heels in the face of virulent international criticism and mounting military pressure to vacate his seat.

Odinga also said during his first mission last week that Gbagbo would not face prosecution if he agreed to recognise Ouattara as the country's legitimate president and step down gracefully.

He had ruled out any compromise short of Gbagbo's exit, including a coalition government such as the one that handed him his own job as premier following Kenya's post-election crisis three years ago.

But Ivory Coast's envoy to the United Nations Youssoufou Bamba told the BBC on Tuesday that Ouattara could work with Gbagbo in a "wide composite cabinet" if the Ivorian strongman conceded defeat.



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