2 negotiators shun Ivory Coast after death threats

A reduced delegation met with Ivory Coast's internationally recognized president on Tuesday, after two of the mediators sent to resolve this country's political crisis pulled out citing security threats.

The panel of five African presidents sent by the African Union was due to arrive in Abidjan on Monday, but only four arrived in the West African nation. Blaise Compaore, the leader of Burkina Faso, pulled out as did James Victor Gbeho, the chairman of the regional Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, after threats from a violent youth militia.

The militia known as the Young Patriots is aligned with Laurent Gbagbo, the man who has ruled Ivory Coast for the past 10 years and who is now refusing to leave office. The Young Patriots vowed to keep the two men out of Ivory Coast because both Compaore and ECOWAS, which Gbeho represents, have said that Gbagbo needs to cede power immediately.

The international community has backed U.N.-certified election results that show opposition leader Alassane Ouattara as the winner of November's poll.

On Tuesday, the AU delegation that includes the presidents of Chad, Mauritania, South Africa and Tanzania headed into a private meeting with Ouattara.

Ouattara said he is pessimistic that they will find a solution to the three-month standoff. Previous delegations — featuring the presidents of Benin, Sierra Leone, Cape Verde and the former presidents of Nigeria and South Africa — have failed to dislodge Gbagbo.

"My country is traversing a difficult period and your mission is the mission of last resort because all the others that preceded you came here with the same message for me and for the former president: That he had lost, that he needs to cede power peacefully," Ouattara told the dignitaries in the presence of reporters. "Unfortunately that has not happened."

Also on Tuesday, ECOWAS complained in a statement that Gbagbo did not do enough to secure the airport and remove the mob that had gathered there to await the panel's arrival. Witnesses say that hundreds of Young Patriots encircled the international airport Sunday and that security forces allied with Gbagbo did nothing to disperse them even though they were out past the curfew being enforced throughout the rest of the city.


Associated Press writer Bashir Adigun contributed to this report in Abuja, Nigeria.