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Prosecutor to move ahead on Ivory Coast probe

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said Monday that he plans to ask judges "very soon" to open an investigation into alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes in Ivory Coast following last November's presidential election.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo said in an interview Monday with The Associated Press that prosecutors "have enough information" to request a formal investigation.

"We are preparing an application to request to the judges to open (an) investigation," he said. "So we move very soon to the judges requesting authorization."

Former President Laurent Gbagbo's refusal to cede power to opposition leader Alassane Ouattara after losing the election plunged the country into violence that forced more than 1 million people to flee. The death toll is still not known: the U.N. documented some 500 deaths, but human rights groups say thousands were killed. Gbagbo was detained by pro-Ouattara forces on April 11.

Moreno-Ocampo said his office has been in discussions with Ouattara's government about whether it could launch an investigation on its own.

"They are telling me that they cannot conduct an investigation themselves, so ... they agree that I should do it," if authorized by the ICC, he said.

The U.N. Human Rights Council has already appointed a three-member panel to investigate the violence in Ivory Coast.

Moreno-Ocampo said his office will probably wait for that investigation to be completed before launching its own probe, if given a green light.

Ivory Coast, the world's largest cocoa producer, has been in turmoil for almost a decade.

It was split into a rebel-controlled north and government-controlled south after an attempted coup sparked a civil war in 2002. A peace deal in March 2007 brought key rebel leaders into the administration and offered hope for a single government after years of foundering accords and disarmament plans. But the results of the Nov. 29 presidential election made clear that deep divisions remain.