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Ivory Coast's Gbagbo defiant as surrender talks proceed

Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo is negotiating the terms for his surrender. However, he has refused to recognize the claimant to the presidency, Alassane Ouattara, despite being trapped in his presidential home.

UN attacks in Ivory Coast

Gbagbo is said to be trapped in his presidential home

Defiant Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo refused to step aside as the country's president late Tuesday, despite the surrender of his military earlier in the day.

In an interview with French broadcaster LCI, Gbagbo rejected demands by France - the former colonial power in Ivory Coast - that he recognize his rival and presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara, who came out on top in a general election some four months ago.

"I do not recognize the victory of Ouattara … Why would you want me to sign this?" he said during the interview.

France, meanwhile, sought to dispel rumors that Gbagbo had already surrendered, reiterating that negotiations over the terms of his departure were still ongoing.

"As we speak we are speaking to two generals to negotiate President Gbagbo's surrender," French Prime Minister Francois Fillon told parliament late Tuesday.

International pressure continues

Gbagbo was said to be trapped in his home after forces loyal to Ouattara conducted sustained attacks on his presidential compound in the capital, Abidjan.

US President Barack Obama called on Gbagbo to step down immediately and backed the intervention by UN and French troops.

Soldiers loyal to Alassane Ouattara arrive at a checkpoint at one of the principal entrances to Abidjan

Soldiers loyal to Ouattara are at key Abidjan checkpoints

"To end this violence and prevent more bloodshed, former President Gbagbo must stand down immediately and direct those who are fighting on his behalf to lay down their arms," he said in a statement. He added that the violence could have been averted had Gbagbo acknowledged the results of last year's disputed election.

Gbagbo's chief of staff, General Philippe Mangou, said he had requested a ceasefire following the bombardment of his troops' positions by French forces, who had earlier joined the UN-led military operation against Gbagbo.

The ceasefire, Mangou said, would allow for the "protection of the population, soldiers, the Republican Guard ensuring the president's security, the president himself and his family and members of government."

UN warns of humanitarian catastrophe

Meanwhile, the UN human rights office in Geneva said dozens of people had been killed over the last few days in the heavy fighting in Abidjan. The UN also warned of a humanitarian catastrophe.

"The humanitarian situation has deteriorated again and has become absolutely dramatic in Abidjan where fighting is continuing," said Elizabeth Byrs, spokeswoman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

"The majority of hospitals are no longer working, they lack oxygen, public services are no longer working, the ambulances are no longer functioning and when they work they are being shot at," Byrs added.

Author: Darren Mara, Rob Mudge (Reuters, AFP, AP)
Editor: Sarah Harman

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