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Ivory Coast Power Sharing Ruled Out by U.S., Regional Spokesmen

Jan. 5 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. is ruling out a power-sharing agreement in the Ivory Coast because the outcome of the November election was clear, State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley told reporters yesterday in Washington.

Opposition leader Alassane Ouattara has been in a dispute with President Laurent Gbagbo over the voting results, which the U.S., United Nations and African Union say Ouattara won. Ivory Coast, sub-Saharan Africa’s seventh-biggest economy, is the world’s top cocoa grower.

“No resolution should include a power-sharing agreement,” Crowley said a briefing for reporters. “Nothing is preventing President Gbagbo from leaving Cote d’Ivoire,” Crowley said. “We don’t know where he might go, but we believe at this point it’s important that he leave soon.”

Sunny Ugoh, a spokesman for the Economic Community of West African States, said the region also opposes power sharing in Ivory Coast. AU envoy Raila Odinga, who with Ecowas representatives had held talks with the two sides, made it clear to Gbagbo that power sharing “is not an option,” Ugoh said by telephone from Abuja, the Nigerian capital.

Ecowas said earlier yesterday that Gbagbo agreed to negotiate an end to the political crisis and will lift a blockade of Ouattara’s headquarters. The country’s Eurobonds gained for the first time in five days.

Ouattara will allow Gbagbo a “dignified exit” if he steps down, the 15-nation group said in a statement distributed to reporters in Abuja. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, the current Ecowas chairman, said earlier that the latest mediation efforts had stalled.

Election Standoff

Ouattara, 68, has been holed up at the Golf Hotel in Abidjan, the nation’s commercial capital, since the disputed Nov. 28 election. Gbagbo, with the support of the army, refused to step down.

Crowley said that the U.S. has “signaled” to Gbagbo that if he wants to come to the U.S., where the president has family, “we were prepared to discuss that possibility.”

There is no indication that Gbagbo is interested in coming to the U.S., Crowley said. He added that the U.S. believes Gbagbo should be accountable for human-rights abuses that have occurred during the unrest following the president’s refusal to step down.

“Any travel to the United States would have to take into account events on the ground,” Crowley added.

The government missed a $29 million interest payment on the dollar-denominated bonds last week. The country has a 30-day grace period to make the payment and no action can be taken by creditors until Jan. 31, Thierry Desjardins, vice president in charge of sovereign debt restructuring at BNP Paribas SA, said Jan. 3.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nicole Gaouette in Washington at ngaouette@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Robin Meszoly at rmeszoly@bloomberg.net

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