Ivory Coast Bombardment Spurns Talks Of Surrender
French and United Nations helicopter strikes of his home, office and military bases drew Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo to the negotiating table on Tuesday.
Gbagbo has clung to the Ivorian presidency for the past four months despite losing the November election by most accounts. In recent days, he had used heavy artillery to subdue rebels trying to push him out of power. He even fired upon U.N. peacekeepers, forcing the agency to defend itself.
France, which once claimed Ivory Coast as a colony, supported the rebel effort with a sweeping bombardment on Monday. That pushed Gbagbo into a bunker below his home with rebels controlling the complex above him. Reporters said fighting had ceased and Gbagbo was seeking an official ceasefire agreement.
If a deal with Gbagbo's military leaders is struck on his removal from power, rival Alassane Ouattara would be inserted as president.
The L.A. Times reports: "Gbagbo [first] claimed victory in 2000 and flooded the streets with his supporters, toppling Robert Guei and vowing to bring an end to the cult of personality where 'big men' clung to power and refused to tolerate dissent or accept defeat."
Even with Outtara in power, Ivory Coast could remain a battleground if Gbagbo's frustrated forces begin to attack Outtara.
Reuters reports: "Gbagbo may soon be gone from Ivory Coast, but Ouattara will inherit a divided country, an unsolved massacre and potential chaos in Abidjan." In addition, the country's economy could collapse at any moment because commercial activity has quieted since the disputed election.
President Barack Obama praised the effort in Ivory Coast.
"Tragically, the violence that we are seeing could have been averted had Laurent Gbagbo respected the results of last year's presidential election," Obama said in a statement. "To end this violence and prevent more bloodshed, former president Gbagbo must stand down immediately, and direct those who are fighting on his behalf to lay down their arms. Every day that the fighting persists will bring more suffering, and further delay the future of peace and prosperity that the people of Cote d'Ivoire deserve."
France and NATO forces are seeking to overthrow Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi as well. But while the U.N. resolution under which they are operating authorizes the use of any means to protect civilians, the allied forces have not significantly imperiled Gaddafi's palace.