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West African Presidents Deliver Ultimatum To Cote D'Ivoire's Gbagbo

Challenger Allasane Ouattara is widely regarded as having won last month's presidential election in Cote d'Ivoire.
West African leaders have handed an ultimatum to Cote d'Ivoire leader Laurent Gbagbo, urging him to step down and cede power or face possible outside military force.

But Gbagbo has refused to concede defeat, instead saying he is the victim of an international plot led by Cote d'Ivoire's former colonial ruler France and the United States.

Rival presidential candidate Allasane Ouattara has been internationally recognized as the winner of Cote d'Ivoire's elections last month.

The presidents of Benin, Cape Verde, and Sierra Leone met with Gbagbo on December 28 in Abidjan, and officials said they told him he must quickly step aside or face possible military action against his rule by forces from African nations.

The West African presidents also met with Ouattara, who is staying at a hotel in Abidjan surrounded by hundreds of United Nations peacekeeping troops.

In a sign of tensions, the UN reported that a crowd had attacked a UN convoy in a pro-Gbagbo neighborhood the same day, wounding one peacekeeper in a machete attack.

Thousands of Ivorians are reported to have fled the country, and more than 170 people have been reported killed as the standoff has escalated.

compiled from agency reports