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Fierce Fighting Reported In Ivory Coast Main City

Presidential candidate Alassane Dramane Ouattara was thought to have won the presidential election in November by the international community.
Forces backing Ivory Coast's internationally recognized president are said to be closing in on his rival, the incumbent president who refuses to leave his post.

Forces backing Alassane Ouattara have overrun nearly 80 percent of the country during a four-day offensive that began on March 28.

Heavy fighting was reported today in the main city, Abidjan, including around the residence of Ouattara's rival, Laurent Gbagbo. Ouattara supporters said they have taken control of state television.

In a televised address on March 31, Ouattara made a final appeal to Gbagbo to step down.

"Today [the Republican forces] are at the doorstep of Abidjan," Ouattara said. "To all those who are still hesitating, whether you are generals, superior officers, officers, under-officers, rank-and-file soldiers, I ask you to put yourself at the disposal of your country and thereby return to legality. There is still time to join your brothers-in-arms, the Republican Forces. The country calls you."

Ivory Coast was plunged into violence after November elections, which the country's electoral commission and the United Nations said Gbagbo lost.

Up to 1 million people have fled the fighting and at least 490 have been killed since the election, according to UN figures.

compiled from agency reports