Ivory Coast: Ouattara to Attend AU Meeting in Ethiopia

Ivory Coast’s internationally recognized leader, Alassane Ouattara, says he will attend an upcoming meeting of African Union leaders in Ethiopia in the latest bid to resolve the country’s political crisis.

Mr. Ouattara said Saturday he has accepted an invitation to travel to Addis Ababa for the meeting on Thursday.

The trip would mark he first time Mr. Ouattara leaves his Abidjan hotel, which has been blockaded by troops loyal to incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo. U.N. peacekeepers are protecting the hotel.

Mr. Gbagbo is refusing to leave office despite intense international pressure for him to hand power over to Mr. Ouattara. Most of the international community recognizes Mr. Ouattara as the winner of the country’s November election.

A top African Union official, Commission chief Jean Ping, met Saturday in Abidjan with both presidential rivals. He said he passed on a message to both of them but did not elaborate on its contents.

A panel of AU presidents tasked with finding a solution to the political standoff sent Ping to Abidjan. The leaders had previously planned to visit Ivory Coast on Saturday, but abruptly canceled their trip.

The power struggle between Mr. Gbagbo and Mr. Ouattara has triggered violence throughout the country, which the United Nations says has left at least 365 people dead.

In other news, the United Nations is investigating suspected arms transfers from Zimbabwe to Mr. Gbagbo, a move that would violate U.N. sanctions.

A U.N. report says investigators are looking into the possible arrival of light weapons cargo from Zimbabwe, as well as 10 large crates that may contain trucks or tanks.

The report, which was obtained by Western news agencies, said the items have been in Abidjan for six months and are under constant surveillance. voa

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