ByÂ Douglas Stanglin, USA TODAY
Despite widespread reports that he has surrendered, Ivory Coast’s strongman leader Laurent Gbagbo insists in a television interview that he is the legitimately elected president and will not step down.
While holed up in a bunker inside the presidential residence today i Abidjan, he maintained in a defiant interview by phone with France’s LCI television that he won the election four months ago, even as troops backing the internationally recognized winner, Alassane Ouattara, encircled the home, the Associated Press reports.
Amid the chaos, Reuters, citing internal U.N. documents, reported that Gbagbo had surrendered and was seeking U.N. protection. French officials and a diplomat have also said he is negotiating his departure terms. One diplomat even tells the AP that Gbagbo is negotiating the final terms with Ouattara directly.
Gbagbo’s position became precarious Monday after French and U.N. forces launched a military offensive in support of Ouattara.
France’s foreign minister says Gbagbo would be required to relinquish power in writing after a decade as president, and must formally recognize Ouattara as the legitimate president, the AP reports. But Gbagbo, in the 20-minute interview, showed no intention of leaving, declaring that Ouattara “did not win the elections.”
“I won the election and I am not negotiating my departure,” Gbagbo said.
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