AU envoy Odinga set to leave Côte d’Ivoire without a deal By HONORE KOUA in Abidjan | Wednesday, January 19  2011 at  09:46

Ivory Coast's internationally recognised leader Alassane Ouattara (right) and Africa's mediator in the Ivorian leadership crisis, Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga (left), wave to the crowd at a hotel on January 17, 2011, in Abidjan ahead of talks. AFP | AFRICA REVIEW 

African Union envoy Raila Odinga was due to leave Côte d’Ivoire Wednesday without a deal over the country’s post-electoral crisis.

Journalists were told Mr Odinga would hold a press conference at 7.30 a.m. (Côte d’Ivoire time) before leaving the country for Ghana.

Earlier, Mr Salim Lone, a spokesman for the Kenyan prime minister, told Reuters news agency the mediator would also go to Burkina Faso and South Africa. "No, he's not given up on this process," Mr Lone said.

According to sources close to the mediation, after meeting incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo and his opponent Alassane Ouattara on Tuesday, Mr Odinga was reportedly expecting concessions from both men.

Mr Gbagbo’s camp is said to have accepted to have direct talks with the opposition but refused to remove the blockade on the hotel.

Mr Ouattara also maintained his long-held condition that Mr Gbagbo recognise him as president before any negotiations.

The Kenyan premier met some ambassadors in Abidjan on Tuesday, saying he was optimistic about talks he held with the two principals.

Military deployment

Meanwhile army chiefs of staff of the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) started a two-day meeting in Mali to discuss plans in case a military intervention is required to remove Mr Gbagbo.

According to AFP news agency, the bloc's military chiefs would work off a report drawn up in December which envisages Nigeria at the head of a regional intervention force and the deployment of combat troops and attack helicopters.

The report also said that Benin, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Mali and Togo are expected to send troops while Niger is uncertain.

"Our preparations are very advanced and we are ready to move into action if necessary and that must be clear," senior Nigerian officer Olusegun Petinrin told AFP.

A new general strike call starting from Tuesday from opposition coalition to put pressure on outgoing president had little success. In Abidjan out of the 10 districts only two which are Ouattara strongholds, Abobo and Adjamé, observed the movement.

In some areas security forces removed barricades placed by youths. In others, some taxis were damaged and one burnt.

Outside the commercial capital city, activities went on normally except in some schools which were closed for security reasons.

Expanded sanctions

In another development, the two camps are still fighting for the control on the country resources. A spokesman for Gbagbo’s government, Ahoua Don Mello, said Tuesday in a statement that through “various letters” directors of national banks and financial institutions had been threatened with sanctions.

The government “assured them that all measures be taken to enable them to conduct their business in peace,” the statement added. Mr Gbagbo’s cabinet also warned the “authors of these threats and all those who are publishing it that the law will be applied in its entire rigour."

Last week the European Union expanded sanction to companies supporting the beleaguered Ivorian leader including some banks and financial groups.

The same companies have also been threatened with sanctions by Mr Ouattara’s cabinet if they continue to collaborate with Mr Gbagbo.

The opposition premier Guillaume Soro on Tuesday informed operators of coffee-cocoa and banks not to pay taxes to the “illegitimate government of Mr Gbagbo".

All amounts paid under these operations “will be considered not received by the State of Côte d'Ivoire and will remain due”, he concluded.

Hours earlier a press statement announced Mr Soro would represent Mr Ouattara at the next summit of Heads of State of West African Economic and Monetary Union scheduled on January 22 in Mali.

The declaration said the opposition prime minister would also meet Mr Ouattara's "counterparts" in the coming days in several African capitals namely Ouagadougou, Niamey, Lomé, Abuja, Malabo, Lilongwe, Lusaka and Pretoria.