Mbeki tries to mediate in tense Ivory Coast

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Mbeki tries to mediate in tense Ivory Coast

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Tens of thousands of supporters of Alassane Outarra have taken to the streets of Ivory Coast to back his claim to the presidency.

Confusion reigns in the country after Outarra and incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo both swore themselves in as leader.

Outarra was declared winner by the electoral commission after recent polls. But the Constitutional Council, whose head is a close ally of Gbagbo, overturned that.

The former South African President Thabo Mbeki has arrived in Ivory Coast to attempt to mediate, amid warnings the impasse could spark widespread civil unrest.

The UN, the US and the European Union are among those backing Outarra as the winner, but Gbagbo has defied their calls to step aside.

He told a rally: “In France, even Napoleon took the crown and placed it on his head to prevent another sovereign, the Pope, from placing it on his head. There are many other examples of this. It’s my duty to defend the sovereignty of Ivory Coast, and that is not negotiable.”

Military leaders were quick to back Gbagbo as leader.

The recent elections were supposed to be the next step in reuniting a country divided by civil war.