Page last updated at 21:26 GMT, Friday, 1 April 2011 22:26 UK

Ivory Coast: As it happened Friday

  • Heavy fighting has broken out in Ivory Coast's main city, Abidjan
  • Laurent Gbagbo lost a presidential run-off in November 2010 but has refused to cede power to his rival, Alassane Ouattara
  • Troops loyal to Mr Ouattara have launched an assault on the fortified presidential residence
  • Mr Ouattara's forces have seized much of the country in a four-day offensive
  • The UN has demanded that Mr Gbagbo step down
  • Live Page reporters: Victoria King, Alexis Akwagyiram, Stephanie Holmes, Anna Jones and Yaroslav Lukov
  • All times GMT

2215That concludes our live coverage of events in Ivory Coast for Friday.

e-mail sent in by reader
2208Mike, in Abidjan, says: "The international community should do something to save the lives of people in the Ivory Coast. There are killings everyday just because of one person - who lost election. The world powers should use this as an example to avoid similar problems in the future."
Have Your Say

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2155An Abidjan resident writes:"There has been shooting all around, we don't know who to believe any more. RTI is back on air and we are told they have taken over, they should not have started if they know they're unable to do it, now they make the country unsafe for us foreigners."
Have Your Say

2149"The mass defections and lack of resistance in much of the country is likely to remain the central mystery of the country's swift turnaround this week, after months of bellicose language on state television by Mr Gbagbo and his aides," writes New York Times reporter Adam Nossiter in this piece.

2140 Earlybird97 tweets: "Libya has oil and is close to Europe. It therefore scores enough points to qualify for its own no-fly zone. Ivory Coast? Not a chance."

e-mail sent in by reader
2135Alain, in Yamoussoukro, writes:"Please Mr Gbagbo give the power to the good man, Mr Ouattara. Ivory Coast needs Mr Ouattara to be our president. We need UN to force Laurent Gbagbo to go please."
Have Your Say

2130 frpeterpreble tweets: "The people of the Ivory Coast r suffering unspeakable horros thanks to their president. I wonder why we have not gone there yet? No Oil."

e-mail sent in by reader
2126Laurent, in Abidjan, writes:"At the very least, the United Nations should have ordered a recount of the ballot. Any election anywhere should be geared with that as a probability. These are the sort of things that the UN should advocate and oversee. Obviously they did not do any kind of a credible job in their role as overseer. Further, the manner in which the so-called result was announced was incredibly irregular and showed no attempt at respecting the process prescribed by the stipulation in the constitution of Ivory Coast. The UN is at least complicit in the creation of mayhem in Ivory Coast either by negligence or outright bias. Some of the UN's actions or deliberate inactions leave it with a fragmented record and an integrity issue."
Have Your Say

2120More on the state-run RTI television, which reportedly resumed broadcasting after its closure for almost a day amid heavy fighting. Reuters now says RTI aired images of cheering Gbagbo supporters and filed footage of his swearing-in after the disputed elections.

2112 valedos tweets: "my heart and prayers go to those poor soul in Ivory Coast whose lives are at the mercy of those greedy politicians who are power sick!"

2106Ivory Coast's pro-Gbagbo state RTI television is back on air, Reuters reports.

2054 Ivoire tweets: "#Côtedivoire #ivorycoast ONUCI machine gunned a university residence"

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2050Drosa, in Abidjan, writes: "I've seen Gbagbo supporters shooting at civilians."
Have Your Say

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2044Joel writes: "I escaped Abidjan on Wednesday. I saw hell on the road to the Noe-Elubo boarder between Ivory Coast and Ghana. [...] Youths put a blockage and there are hundreds of checkpoints with guns, hammers, cutlasses and bottles. People demanded identity cards, beat us and threatened to kill us because we are Nigerian."
Have Your Say

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2041Maste, in Abidjan, writes:"We have been hearing loud gun sounds coming from everywhere and every corner. Just now I hear a woman crying out loud I think from the back of where I live, I can't see her but I know it must be something serious"
Have Your Say

2035How did UN-supervised elections result in such a mess in Ivory Coast? asks the Africa Editor William Wallis, in the Financial Times.

2026 John Suarez tweets: "Côte d'Ivoire: Warning of 'human rights catastrophe' as forces reach Abidjan / Amnesty International #IvoryCoast."

2020Oxfam spokeswoman Caroline Gluck, in Liberia, says that those who have fled fighting in Ivory Coast are living in remote jungle areas along the border. "When the rains come, we will not be able to reach them with aid because the whole area will become inaccessible, PA reports.

2013International aid group Oxfam says that more than 100,000 people have already crossed the border from the Ivory Coast to Liberia and are now living in dire conditions in border villages, the Press Association reports.

2009In response to a question about why France has not done more about the situation in the Ivory Coast, French MP Jacques Myard tells the BBC: "We have introduced the UN 1975 resolution, which was taken under Chapter 7, condemning Gbagbo and his government and asking him to leave. France is acting, but it is not the colonial power any more."

2001 Jösch KjK tweets: "Hundred people dead by government in Cote D'Ivoire and #NATO nor #UN say neither do a thing! Kind of curious, right?"

1954 France reinforces its troop contingent in Ivory Coast's main city, Abidjan, adding around 150 troops to take the force to nearly 1,100 in total, the French defence ministry says, according to AFP.

1948 Ivorian soldiers are historically "unwarrior-like", according to political anthropologist Michael McGovern, of Yale University. "They were very happy to draw their pay every month, but they were essentially like civil servants" he comments, in the New York Times.

1941Stay with us for the latest updates - reports from our correspondents on the ground, expert analysis, and your reaction from around the world. You can contact us via email, text or twitter. We'll publish what we can.

1933Former UN envoy and advisor Lakhdar Brahimi tells the BBC that the group which he, along with Nelson Mandela, is a member - the Global Elders - were considering sending a delegation to the Ivory Coast to speak to the political rivals.

1927The US urges UN and French forces in the Ivory Coast to "take all possible steps" to protect civilians and prevent looting in the Ivory Coast, according to AFP.

1923Former UN envoy and advisor Lakhdar Brahimi tells the BBC that Mr Gbagbo is "not very well inspired" to try and "cling on to power". He said he was extremely worried by reports of violence in the country, adding that both presidential rivals should "think a little bit more of their people and a little less of themselves".

1914Laurent Gbagbo's spokesman is denying rumours that he has fled. "He is at home, obviously, with his wife and the whole family. He is better accepted in Ivory Coast than elsewhere," Don Mello said according to AFP. "He was elected by Ivorians and the other by the international community," he said referring to Ouattara.

1907The French president says that the safety of all civilians, Ivorian and foreign, must be respected. "Those responsible for abuses will not escape criminal responsibility," Nicolas Sarkozy says, according to AFP.

1901Ronaldo, from International Crisis Group, tells the BBC: "I had a conversation with someone close to Gbagbo who has known him for 30 years. He said Gbagbo told him he is ready to die and will never ever step down. He is someone with an absolute vision of politics - it is live or die in politics."

1852"It appears that his time is drawing nigh." The words of US State Department spokesman Mark Toner, calling on Laurent Gbagbo to abandon office, Reuters reports.

1852Laurent Gbagbo should "read the writing on the wall" and step down immediately, the US state department says, Reuters reports.

1845The forces of Laurent Gbagbo have repelled an offensive by fighters loyal to Alassane Ouattara on the presidential palace in Abidjan, Mr Gbagbo's spokesman Ahoua Don Mello says, according to AFP.

1841Jan, in the Ivorian capital, tells the BBC: "There is no normal life here, we cannot go out. I feel angry towards the international community. I have the feeling that they want to impose Alassane Ouattara on us. Lots of people outside the country believe he won but the winner is the one who was declared the winner in Ivory Coast - and that was Gbagbo."

1837The French president has urged Laurent Gbagbo to leave power "immediately" and urged rival forces battling in the country to keep civilians safe. "France calls on Laurent Gbagbo, according to UN Security Council resolution 1975, to withdraw immediately, to cease from violence and give up power peacefully to President Alassane Ouattara," Nicolas Sarkozy said in a statement, AFP reports.

1833French MP Jacques Myard tells the BBC that the crisis in Ivory Coast has been brewing for years. "We have 1,000 French soldiers inside the UN mission. It is rather difficult for us to intervene. We have no UN mandate. I also believe this is the mission of the Ivory Coast people - to take their own destiny in their own hands."

1827Barr, from Abidjan, tells the BBC's World Have Your Say: "It's calmer here now than it was this morning. But it's still very dangerous to express your point of view publicly in Abidjan when you don't know who you are talking to."

1822Gerome, an Ivorian living in Norway, tells the BBC's World Have Your Say: "It's not a civil war. It is an international coup d'etat against a democratic nation. The UN and the French army are based in Abidjan and they are supporting the rebels."

1816French officials say that they are "practically certain" that Laurent Gbagbo is still in Abidjan and is probably in the presidential residence, AFP reports.

1812AFP are reporting that, according to officials in Paris, the French citizen found dead in Yamoussoukro was a teacher who had possibly been shot by a stray bullet. He is reported to have died in his hotel room on Thursday night.

1809AFP are reporting that, according to officials in Paris, the French citizen found dead in Yamoussoukro was a teacher who had possibly been shot by a stray bullet. He is reported to have died in his hotel room on Thursday night.

1804 The body of a French man has been found in a hotel room in Yamoussoukro - which fell to forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara on Wednesday - according to a French foreign ministry source cited by Reuters. He is reported to have been shot dead.

1758 UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has added his voice to those calling for Laurent Gbagbo to step down and "stop killing civilians". "I want to remind all those who commit serious violations of human rights [that they] will be held accountable," he told a news conference in Nairobi.

1652 The BBC's John James says fighting is still raging in Abidjan, but there is a plan to bring in a curfew within the next hour or so in a bid to control the looting and restore some kind of order.

1646 Dr Soro added that medical staff at the hospital have been stuck there since Monday - they cannot go home. He said there was not enough food in the kitchen to feed them as well as the patients.

1640 Dr Soro Lacila, from CHU Yopougon University Hospital in Abidjan, told BBC Focus on Africa that they have admitted about 30 patients since Thursday - three of whom have died. He says they have seen more injured civilians than fighters. "We don't have enough medicine to treat people, but we try to do what we can do. We can't move around, all the pharmacies are closed."

1636 The Commission of the Economic Community of West African States is calling for Laurent Gbagbo to "cede power immediately". It says it will "not condone crimes against humanity nor spare those who trample the rights of the people underfoot".

1630 The United Nations mission in Ivory Coast says it is ready to facilitate the departure of Laurent Gbagbo if he decides to leave, AFP reports.

1623 One resident of Abidjan, who didn't want to be named, told the BBC World Service what he was witnessing: "Heavy shooting from all over the place, like exploding. It's heavier than yesterday, but we don't know if it's mortar or rockets. We don't know, but it's frightening." He said UN peacekeepers had given residents a number to call if their homes were attacked by looters, but he added: "Nobody answers, or they say they will do what they can, but they can't move right now. So people are desperate."

1616 The BBC's Andrew Harding has more on his phone call with Charles Ble Goude. The leader of the Young Patriots militant group told him he wanted to avoid a civil war and any more bloodshed, and was calling on Gbagbo to negotiate to save lives. He said he was not yet calling his members onto the streets, adding: "I don't want people to push me to take them onto the streets. People must be cautious of their responsibilities."

1607 On the situation in Ivory Coast, a spokesman for the UK Foreign Office says: "We are gravely concerned by the violence that continues to occur in Abidjan and deplore any loss of life. We call on all sides to exercise restraint. Reports of human rights violations must be investigated and those responsible held to account."

1600 More from Dr Phil Clark, Africa expert, who's being talking to Sky News. He says he thinks, ultimately, Gbagbo will flee - and he has a lot of powerful friends in Africa who would be willing to take him in. But he points out that the election was hard-fought and the result narrow, so even if Ouattara does take the reins, a large swathe of the country will deeply resent his presence.

1550 An update from on the ground in Abidjan. The BBC's Valerie Bony says fighting is still very intense around the main gendarmerie camp in Agban and in the area of Le Plateau, not far from presidential palace.

1543 A bit more from Mr Alain. He says Gbagbo is preparing to make a televised address to the nation - once television services are back up and running. He declined to say whether Gbagbo is still in Abidjan, revealing only that he's in "a secure location" somewhere in Ivory Coast and is directing operations.

1536 Laurent Gbagbo will fight "to the end", according to his European adviser. Toussaint Alain told Reuters TV: "He has no intention of standing down or giving up his power. He will, in the coming hours, have proposals for the armed opposition."

1531 The BBC's Andrew Harding, on the Mali-Ivory Coast border, says he's just spoken to Charles Ble Goude, the head of the pro-Gbagbo Young Patriots militant group. He say the "rebels are trying to take control of Abidjan but they are not succeeding". To find out more about Charles Ble Goude, check out our profile.

1523 The BBC's John James, who's on the ground, says there are fears that inter-ethnic violence could erupt in western areas of the country. He says there are reports of people arming themselves, and concerns are growing that they could use the overall state of chaos as a cover to settle personal scores.

1519 Reuters quotes a spokesman for Ouattara, who says the would-be leader's forces have re-opened Ivory Coast's air border, but its land and sea borders remain closed.

1510 Cisse Sindou, deputy chief of the pro-Ouattara forces, urged people not to carry out acts of retaliation or looting. He told the BBC's Focus on Africa that all his forces were now in Abidjan. "Fighting is now going on in three places: Gbagbo's compound in Cocody; the presidential palace in Plateau and Agban, a military camp in Ajame. We just don't want to go heavy in those places. We don't want to use heavy weapons because this is urban combat."

1446 Dr Phil Clark, of the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, said Alassane Ouattara is "no angel". "If the international community thinks they can put all of their hopes for Ivory Coast in one man, namely Ouattara, I think they are sadly mistaken," he said.

1438 The statement issued by Mr Gordhan comes after the UN Security Council imposed travel bans and asset freezes on Mr Gbagbo and his closest associates. The move, on Wednesday, was part of a bid to force him to stand down.

1432 South Africa's finance minister, Pravin Gordhan, has issued a statement saying that the country will comply with a UN Security Council resolution to freeze assets linked Mr Gbagbo and his associates, Reuters reports.

1420 Speaking from Accra, in nearby Ghana, Ms Quist-Arcton described the conditions people in Ivory Coast's main city have had to endure. She said people in Abidjan she had spoken to are "terrified". "They've lived through a night of more gunfire and mortar shells. People miles away from where the presidential residence is are saying their houses have been shaking," she said.

1416 Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, Africa correspondent for National Public Radio, told BBC World Service listeners "now is the time to think of the Ivorian people".

1401 For a detailed picture of one man's experiences on the ground, have a look at an eyewitness account given to the BBC's Network Africa.

1338 We also have longer profiles of both Laurent Gbagbo and the man internationally recognised as his successor, Alasanne Ouattara.

1334 If you want to know more about the men at the centre of this dispute, have a look at our profiles of the key players.

1332 A resident of Abidjan has told BBC's Newshour the fighting seems to have moved away from the presidential palace. "During the course of the last couple of hours, the fighting seems to have changed locus to the area of Abidjan known as Aquedo - that's where there's a military camp. That's where the firing is taking place right now."

1327 Col Patrice Koussi, a spokesman for the pro-Ouattara forces, says "too much blood has been shed" in Ivory Coast for nothing. "It is time we take responsibility in front of history. It is time, high time, that we stop this pointless massacre. Let us offer peace to our people and stop fighting our brothers in arms."

1324 AhoumaWilliam tweets: "Wow! I heard a burst of heavy gunshots and a whistling something flew near my block. I seriously ran for my life."

1319 Huge numbers of refugees have also arrived in Liberia since November's elections - 122,958 have been registered in three regions, says UNHCR. In Grand Gedeh county, most people arrive "in dire need of food, shelter and clothing". One family told UNHCR the father had died of hunger on the way.

1318 The organisation continues: "Several of the refugee families told UNHCR they fled due to fear of violence while some had witnessed or experienced violence in their communities. One 11-year old girl, who UNHCR staff came across in Elubo, recounted being abducted and raped. Her mother later discovered her unconscious on a roadside in the outskirts of Abidjan. UNHCR is providing her with medical assistance and counselling."

1315 More from the UNHCR on its concern for people fleeing the violence. Some 1,300 people fled the country to Ghana this week, it says. "Most refugees are women and children. They reach Ghana by bus with few belongings. Some say they travelled eight hours to the south-western border town in Elubo, while others spent as many as four days reaching the border point in Sampa, at the midpoint of Ghana and Ivory Coast's shared border."

1314 Giving some context to the crisis, our French for Africa editor explains that Ivory Coast has largely been divided, north to south, since 2002. "We thought that the election would resolve the problem and the two regions would be united, and heal the wounds of the divergent people, but it seems just the contrary happened."

1313 "People who know Gbabgo say he's a very proud man, a nationalist, and that he may be ready to fight to the end," says Mahamat Adamou.

1310 Mahamat Adamou, editor of the BBC's French for Africa service, says a political solution to the crisis is looking unlikely, as it would come too late for both sides.

1307 Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN human rights office, has warned that anyone committing violence could face prosecution. "They might wish to bear in mind that an international commission of inquiry has already been set to look into human rights violations in Cote d'Ivoire, and obviously that will look at all of the human rights violations committed by people on either side," he said. "They might also want to remember that the International Criminal Court is engaged in Cote d'Ivoire."

1303 He said the fighting was a struggle between two legitimacies: "Ouattara claims his legitimacy based on international support. While Gbagbo claims his legitimacy on the basis of the constitution, having been sworn in by the constitutional council. So these two different conceptions of legitimacy are actually at war with each other."

1302 More from the Abidjan resident who spoke to the BBC World Service. He said there was no doubt that the Ouattara forces now control the country. "They've taken control of the airports and have shut down the borders of the country."

1258 The BBC's Imogen Foulkes at the UN says the unconfirmed reports of human rights violations are being taken very seriously there. The UN's refugee agency is particularly concerned that thousands of mainly women and children are crossing into Ghana - many bringing stories of abuse, including the rape of young girls.

1257 A resident of Abidjan told BBC World Service that people were hiding indoors, in fear of their lives. "The only thing we can hear is the loud thud of exploding ordnance. That's the only way of knowing what is going on. It sounds like there is really heavy weaponry involved. We got up this morning and found that three bullets had penetrated the rear of the car in our garage, even though we are quite a way from the fighting area. So no place is safe."

1245 But Mr Coulibaly said everything was being done to protect Mr Gbagbo and to ensure he did not come to harm. "President Alassane Ouattara is a man of peace and he wants Laurent Gbagbo to be treated in a humane way," he said.

1243 The Ivorian ambassador in Paris, Ali Coulibaly, has told Reuters all diplomatic options have been exhausted and that force is the only way left to remove Mr Gbagbo. "He has even attempted to cling on in every possible way, by spreading terror and death. There have been massacres, odious crimes which have been perpetrated by Laurent Gbagbo's men."

1240 A spokesman for Mr Ouattara has urged Gbagbo supporters to surrender,"even if for the sake of their wives and children". He told them the families of Mr Gbagbo and his clan were already "well sheltered abroad".

1234 The European Union has said it will not consider lifting any of its sanctions againt Ivory Coast until Mr Gbagbo leaves power, Reuters reports.

1225 AhoumaWilliam in Abidjan tweets to BBC Africa Have Your Say: "Systematic lootings in the neighbourhood of Cocody-Angré. The thieves are visiting houses with trucks. Even without resistance, they beat a friend of mine (a girl) and stole her car, cellphones and purse."

1216 Citing a security source, Reuters says the Swedish UN worker killed by a stray bullet had been on the balcony of a friend's house while shooting was going on when she was hit.

1153 Laurent Gbagbo should stand down to prevent more violence in Ivory Coast, a spokesman for France's foreign ministry has said, according to Reuters. The news agency says Bernard Valero told reporters: "The sooner Gbagbo leaves, the sooner the violence will stop."

1134 edithbrou in Abidjan tweets to BBC Africa Have Your Say: "Looting underway in the area Angré! Where are the peacekeepers? people are terrified!"

1118 BBC World Service's Newshour programme has just spoken to Laurent Gbagbo's foreign minister, Alcide Djedje. He says the president is in his residence in Abidjan's central Cocoody district and will address the nation this afternoon. Mr Djedje says forces loyal to the president have retaken control of the state TV building in Abidjan but added that Mr Gbagbo is prepared to negotiate: "We just want to sit down and find a political way to end this crisis." Asked what mood the president is in, Mr Djedje says: "He's fine." You can hear the full interview in Newshour at 1200 GMT and 1300 GMT.

1111 Reuters says witnesses have reported hearing heavy weapons fire eruptions from near the presidential palace, in the centre of Abidjan. The news agency says heavy weapons fire has also been heard coming from Treichville, a neighbourhood where Mr Gbagbo's elite Republican Guard has a base that is used to protect the bridges leading into the centre of the city.

1058 Laurent Gbagbo is "probably" still inside the presidential palace in Abidjan where fierce battles are taking place with rival forces, French ambassador Jean-Marc Simon tells the AFP news agency.

1051 A Swedish UN employee who was killed by a stray bullet has been named as Zahra Abidi by the Swedish foreign ministry. The 34-year-old, who was working for the United Nations Operation in Cote d'Ivoire, was hit on Thursday night in her Abidjan home.

1042 "Anthony", in Abidjan, says he is staying indoors and is running out of food. He told the BBC: "If you go outside and come across the militia, and you have no money, they would kill you on the spot."

1036 The Reuters news agency reports that the UN's human rights office has called on Mr Ouattara to rein in his forces, citing unconfirmed reports that they had abducted and mistreated civilians. It also cited sporadic reports of pro-Gbagbo forces killing civilians and reminded both sides that they could be held criminally responsible before the International Criminal Court.

1028 Mahamat Adamou, editor of the BBC's French for Africa service, says he believes the pro-Ouattara forces have been preparing for the offensive for some time. "You can't just deploy these forces - they have an estimated force of 5 to10,000 - and when this conflict started the ex-rebel forces were estimated to be around 3,000, or thereabouts. It seems they have also received weapons, so they've been preparing for quite some time." He said it would be "very hard" for Mr Ouattara to unite the country because his opponent still has "hardcore supporters" and the country remains divided along broadly north-south lines.

1018 The African Union is urging Mr Gbagbo to step down immediately in favour of Mr Ouattara, AFP reports.

1015 Kevariste225 tweets (in French): "The day of glory has arrived! Democracy and the choice expressed by the Ivorians will be respected."

1004 BBC World Affairs Correspondent Mike Wooldridge says a strategic decision appears to have been taken by Mr Ouattara to embark on a conventional military campaign by bringing trained soldiers from the north of Ivory Coast to take territory in the south that had been under Mr Gbagbo's control. Our correspondent said this move, combined with the disintegration of backing for Mr Gbagbo among the army and police force, had reinvigorated Mr Ouattara and his supporters.

0951 Patrick Achi, a spokesman for Alassane Ouattara, told the BBC World Service that there was no longer an offer on the table for Mr Gbagbo to stand down peacefully. "I guess that we have exhausted peaceful talks and negotiations. We've been talking for four months, so we gave him four months to step down peacefully." Mr Achi said he thought Laurent Gbagbo should stand trial at the international criminal court. "He's done too [much] bad in this country in the past four months, killing almost a thousand people. And that's [just] what we've seen so far," he said.

0946 The death of a Swedish national in Ivory Coast was announced in Sweden's parliament by PM Carl Bildt. Reports broadcast on public radio in the country said the dead aid worker was a woman in her 30s, AFP says.

0937 A spokesman for Mr Gbagbo, Abdon George Bayeto, told the BBC World Service that Mr Gbagbo would not give up. "When it comes to a fight we are going to put up a fight. The president is not going to step down. He's been elected for five years and we are going to put [up] a fight if we come to it. We're going to react."

0932 A plume of smoke has been seen rising from the presidential palace, says AFP.

0929 BBC Africa correspondent Andrew Harding, in Mali near Ivory Coast's border, has spoken to an Ivorian businessman there who is close to Mr Gbagbo and predicts a long battle for control of Abidjan. He told our correspondent: "Gbagbo has all his forces here. This is the only real battle they are fighting. It will not be easy." Our correspondent said it is increasingly hard to imagine Mr Gbagbo getting out of this situation alive.

0920 Collins 2009 tweets: "Gbagbo should leave already, so ivory coast should be better."

0918Laurent Gbagbo's representative in Paris says he has no intention of leaving power in the face of what he calls a "coup", AFP reports.

0910 For information on the background to the unrest and how the country reached this point, see our Q&A on the Ivory Coast, which outlines the major issues and some possible future scenarios.

0903 French forces took about 500 foreigners, including 150 of its own nationals, to a military camp last night because they were threatened by looters in Abidjan, according to Reuters. "There is a security vacuum and that has opened the way for looters to roam the streets," armed forces spokesman Thierry Burkhard told the news agency, although he stressed that there was no evidence to suggest French people had been specifically targeted. He said there were no plans to repatriate French nationals.

0846 A Swedish UN employee has been killed in Abidjan, according to the AFP news agency. The Swedish foreign ministry says the person was probably killed by a stray bullet.

0840 The BBC's John James, in Bouake, says it feels like the end for Mr Gbagbo as the small area of Abidjan controlled by him is shrinking and only a few fighters, backed by a group of mercenaries, remain loyal to him.

0823 A spokesman for forces allied to Mr Ouattara tells Radio France Internationale there is uncertainty about the whereabouts of Mr Gbagbo.

0818 The AFP news agency reports that some 500 foreigners have sought refuge in a French military camp.

0812 Fighting has been taking place around Mr Gbagbo's heavily defended residence and there were also clashes around the headquarters of state television, which has gone off air.

0801 There has been heavy fighting in Abidjan, the main city of Ivory Coast, as forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara attempt to remove his political rival, Laurent Gbagbo.

0800 Hello from London and welcome to the BBC's live coverage of events in Ivory Coast. We'll be bringing you the breaking news, reports from our correspondents on the ground, expert analysis and your reaction from around the world. You can contact us via email, text or twitter. We'll publish what we can.

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