Fighters surround Ivory Coast strongman in bunker
ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast — Surrounded by troops backing Ivory Coast's democratically elected leader, strongman Laurent Gbagbo huddled in a bunker with his family Tuesday and tried to negotiate terms of surrender directly with his political rival, officials and diplomats said.
France's foreign minister said Gbagbo would be required to relinquish power in writing after a decade as president, and must formally recognize his rival Alassane Ouattara, the internationally backed winner of the November election that plunged the West African nation into chaos.
The talks about Gbagbo's departure terms were still ongoing Tuesday evening directly between Gbagbo and Ouattara, according to a diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.
Forces loyal to Ouattara on Tuesday seized the presidential residence where Gbagbo tried to wrest last-ditch concessions, said a senior diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. Ouattara has urged his supporters to take Gbagbo alive.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told a parliamentary commission that military chiefs in the former French colony also have given orders for a cease-fire.
United Nations and French forces opened fire with attack helicopters on Gbagbo's arms stockpiles and bases on Monday after four months of political deadlock in the former French colony in West Africa. Columns of foot soldiers allied with Ouattara also finally pierced the city limits of Abidjan.
"One might think that we are getting to the end of the crisis," Hamadoun Toure, spokesman for the U.N. mission to Ivory Coast said by phone. "We spoke to his close aides, some had already defected, some are ready to stop fighting. He is alone now, he is in his bunker with a handful of supporters and family members. So is he going to last or not? I don't know."