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Obama Recognizes Ouattara As Rightful Leader Of Ivory Coast

Laurent Gbagbo refuses to hand over power.

Laurent Gbagbo refuses to hand over power.

U.S. President Barack Obama has called on Laurent Gbagbo to leave power in Ivory Coast, saying the United States recognizes rival Alassane Ouattara as the rightfully elected new leader of the west African nation.

In a video message, Obama said last year's election in Ivory Coast was "free and fair" and that Ouattara is the democratically elected leader of the country.

Obama's message came after the United Nations Security Council met to discuss a draft resolution introduced by France and Nigeria that could target Gbagbo and his advisers with sanctions.

The United Nations says up to a million residents of Ivory Coast have fled their homes recently amid fears of civil war.

In addition to the U.S., the United Nations and African organizations say Ouattara defeated Gbagbo in last November's presidential election. Gbagbo says he won and has refused to hand over power.

compiled from agency reports