New clashes in Ivory Coast, US and African Union call for dialogue

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Two Ivory Coast government supporters were killed and a minister's convoy hit by gunfire, officials said on Wednesday, as tensions build over President Alassane Ouattara's contested reelection.

Ivory Coast is caught in a standoff after Ouattara was declared victor on Tuesday, but rivals boycotted the vote and declared they would form a rival "transitional" government.

Security forces have blockaded access to homes of Ouattara's chief rivals, Henri Konan Bedie and Pascal Affi N'Guessan, after officials accused the opposition of plotting an "act of sedition" against the government.

The United States on Wednesday joined the UN in calling for dialogue in the West African state where more than 40 people have been killed in clashes over Ouattara's third term since he announced he would run again in August.

Two government supporters were killed in a clash near equipment minister Amede Koffi Kouakou's home in the central town of Toumodi, a ruling party official said.

"Two young people from the minister's entourage who wanted to help the minister's brother were shot dead" Tuesday night, Ouattara's RHDP party spokesman Mamadou Toure said.

Toumodi was one of the areas hit by violence over the weekend election -- four people were killed at the weekend when houses were set ablaze during clashes there.

Toure also said the convoy of communication minister and government spokesman Sidi Tiemoko Toure had come under fire in the centre of the country, but there were no casualties.

Blocked roads

The crisis has stoked fears Ivory Coast could slide into the kind of violence that killed 3,000 people a decade ago when then president Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept defeat by Ouattara.

Police fired tear gas on Tuesday to clear small groups of protesters near Bedie's residence in Abidjan's Cocody district, where security forces have blocked access roads around his home.

Security forces were also surrounding the homes of N'Guessan and former minister Abdallah Mabri Toikeusse, an AFP reporter said.

"We cannot enter or leave my home," said Assoa Adou, secretary general of the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), close to former Gbagbo, from his home.

"They don't care if we have food or medicine," he told AFP.

Djedri N'Goran, a senior member of Bedie's party, said five members of Bedie's family have been arrested.

Opponents say Ouattara's third term breaches the country's two-term presidential limit, but the Ivorian leader contends that a 2016 reform allowed him to run again by resetting term limits back to zero.

International concern

The crisis is another test for a region where Guinea is caught up in its own post-election dispute, Nigeria is emerging from widespread unrest and Mali has a transition government following a coup.

The United Nations, African Union and African bloc ECOWAS on Tuesday called on Ivory Coast's opposition to "respect constitutional order" and seek dialogue, while urging all sides to show "restraint to preserve human lives".

On Tuesday, the US called on Ivorian leaders to respect the democratic process and rule of law.

"Grievances related to the presidential election must be resolved in a peaceful and transparent manner within the framework of the law," a statement from the US embassy said.

Western and African governments are pressing the opposition to abandon its idea of a transitional government and for Ouattara to "appease rather than oppress", a diplomatic source said.

In power for 10 years, Ouattara said earlier this year that after his second term he planned to make way for a new generation.

But the sudden death of his chosen successor in July prompted him to seek a third term.

The anger sparked by his decision has revived memories of past Ivorian feuds with roots even before a 2002 civil war split the country in two, the north held by rebels and the south by forces of Gbagbo.

Ouattara won a long-postponed election in 2010 but Gbagbo refused to accept defeat. French forces eventually intervened to help Ouattara loyalists oust the former president.

(AFP)