Ivory Coast's Ouattara rejects Gbagbo offer

ABIDJAN Wed Dec 22, 2010 6:34am EST

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ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Ivory Coast's presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara rejected on Wednesday the incumbent leader's offer of an international investigation into a disputed election as a political "game."

Laurent Gbagbo on Tuesday invited an international committee to re-examine the results of the presidential election of November 28 to prevent a bitter power struggle with his rival from escalating into civil war.

Gbagbo said the committee could be headed by the African Union and also involve the West African organization ECOWAS, the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, Russia and China, all of whom have recognized Ouattara as winner.

"We've finished with these games," Patrick Achi, a spokesman for Ouattara's rival government told Reuters by phone.

"For the past five years, he tried maneuvers to postpone the elections. Finally, we got there, he lost and he doesn't want to give up power. We don't think he's changed one bit."

Diplomats said the offer to submit to an international investigation was a delaying tactic.

The presidential election was intended to heal the scars of a 2002-03 war but has instead triggered a violent standoff between Gbagbo and Ouattara, with the latter internationally recognized as victor.

Gbagbo, who has been in power since a disputed election in 2000 and who survived an attempted coup in 2002 that triggered the war, has refused to step down despite international pressure and sanctions backed by world leaders.

He is supported by the Constitutional Council and still has the support of the army. Scores have been killed in post-election violence, many by death squads targeting Ouattara supporters at night, according to the United Nations and human rights groups.

"I am ... ready to welcome a committee... headed by the African Union, involving ECOWAS, the Arab League, the United Nations, United States, the European Union, Russia and China, which will have permission to analyze objectively the facts of the electoral process ...to solve this crisis peacefully," Gbagbo said in a televised address on Tuesday.

Previously, Gbagbo and his supporters had shown no signs of giving any ground on the election they say he won, despite being offered sanctuary in African countries such as Nigeria or South Africa if he steps aside.

The U.N. Security Council agreed on Monday to keep 10,000 U.N. peacekeepers in Ivory Coast, defying Gbagbo's demand that they leave. EU countries and the United States imposed a travel ban on Gbagbo, his wife and his allies.

U.N. officials have not yet responded to Gbagbo's offer.

(Editing by Richard Valdmanis)

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