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Ouattara invites opposition to talks as political crisis deepens

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Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara on Monday invited his main rival Henri Konan Bedie for talks to defuse a standoff over his contested election to a third term.

Ouattara won the October 31 vote with more than 94 percent, but Ivory Coast is caught in a crisis after opposition leaders boycotted the ballot and vowed to set up a rival government in protest over a mandate they see as illegal.

"I would like to invite president Henri Konan Bédié, president of the PDCI RDA (Democratic Party of Ivory Coast), to join me in a meeting in the next few days to have a frank and sincere dialogue to restore confidence", Ouattara said in an address on state TV.

His call for dialogue came just hours after court ratified his controversial election win.

Ouattara struck a conciliatory tone, as the West African country faced its worst political crisis since 2011.

Elected in 2010, re-elected in 2015, Alassane Ouattara had announced in March that he was giving up a new candidacy, before changing his mind in August after the death of his designated dolphin, Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly.

Dozens have been killed in clashes before and after the election.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres "took note" Monday of the validation of the election by the Constitutional Council but "continued to express concern about the rising tension". He said he was "particularly worried" about the "arrests and restrictions of movement" of opposition leaders. 

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 3,600 people have fled clashes to look for safety in Liberia, Ghana, and Togo.

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