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U.S., other nations set deadline for disputed Ivory Coast leader

From Elise Labott, CNN Senior State Department Producer
President Laurent Gbagbo could seek asylum in a number of countries, a U.S. official says.
President Laurent Gbagbo could seek asylum in a number of countries, a U.S. official says.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The international community says Laurent Gbagbo lost the election
  • U.S. official: "He has a decision to make and a limited amount of time to make it"
  • He could seek asylum in a number of countries, the State Department official says

Washington (CNN) -- The United States and other countries have given President Laurent Gbagbo a deadline to leave Ivory Coast or risk sanctions, a senior State Department official said Thursday.

"He has a decision to make and a limited amount of time to make it," the official told CNN on Thursday. "We have made clear he has a matter of days."

The official said that Gbagbo could seek asylum in a number of countries. Although the official wouldn't mention any particular countries, he noted that Gbagbo has "multiple homes in multiple countries" from which to choose.

On Monday, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley urged Gbagbo to step down and recognize the November 28 runoff election was won by his challenger, Alassane Ouattara.

"There are two paths that he can take: one that leads to continued progress for his country and his people, preservation of the institution of democracy, and one that maintains Cote d'Ivoire's role as a leader in Africa," Crowley said. "The other path is one that leads to isolation from the global community and most particularly from the African neighbors of Cote d'Ivoire. We hope that President Gbagbo in the coming days will make the right choice."

The country's Independent Electoral Commission said Ouattara won the runoff, but the country's Constitutional Council invalidated those results and declared Gbagbo the winner.

The United Nations, African Union, European Union and other international bodies and leaders have recognized Ouattara as the winner.

Ivory Coast election tension
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Another State Department official said that the U.S. Embassy in Abidjan was hit by an errant rocket-propelled grenade during protests on Thursday, but no damage was done and nobody was hurt.

At least nine unarmed protesters in Abidjan, Ivory Coast's largest city, were shot and killed by security forces during those protests, eyewitnesses told Amnesty International. The violence erupted as troops loyal to the incumbent president and supporters of his challenger confronted each other.

Read more about the deadly violence

 
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