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Ivory Coast generals call for cease-fire, negotiate Gbagbo's surrender

Two generals close to renegade incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo are holding talks to work out the conditions under which he could surrender, French Prime Minister François Fillon said Tuesday.

By Scott BaldaufStaff Writer / April 5, 2011

A woman walks past soldiers loyal to Alassane Ouattara as they man a checkpoint at one of the principal entrances to Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on Tuesday, April 5. Ivory Coast's entrenched strongman Laurent Gbagbo huddled in a bunker at his home and was exploring different options for his surrender, officials said Tuesday, as forces backing the country's democratically elected leader seized the residence.

Rebecca Blackwell/AP

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Johannesburg, South Africa

Fighting raged in the streets of Ivory Coast's main city of Abidjan on Tuesday as forces loyal to President-elect Alassane Ouattara targeted the presidential palace, where renegade incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo and his family are reportedly taking refuge in a basement bunker.

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Two generals close to Mr. Gbagbo, meanwhile, are holding talks to work out the conditions under which he could surrender, said French Prime Minister François Fillon.

Gbagbo's top general, Phillippe Mangou, has called for a cease-fire and asked the United Nations for protection, UN spokesman Hamadoun Touré told Bloomberg.

The attack on the presidential palace comes after an unusual intervention by helicopter gunships of the UN peacekeeping force in Ivory Coast, as well as members of the French “Licorne” military force stationed in that country. The use of "all necessary measures" to protect civilians and seize heavy weapons was approved by the UN Security Council and requested by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, after what the UN called an “intensified” use of heavy weapons against civilians by Gbagbo’s troops.

"In the past few days, forces loyal to Mr. Gbagbo have intensified and escalated their use of heavy weapons such as mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns against the civilian population in Abidjan," Mr. Ban said from New York.

Regional groups such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have demanded military action to remove Gbagbo. He refused to step down from power after losing a Nov. 28, 2010, runoff election that was deemed free and fair by the African Union, the United Nations, and others. But other African states have condemned foreign intervention, including that by the African Union, which has attempted numerous mediation efforts, all of which have failed.

The AU’s last mission, a panel of five presidents that included South African President Jacob Zuma, called on Gbagbo to step down, a move that Gbagbo refused.

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