African Union mandated South African President Thabo Mbeki on Sunday to resolve the crisis in Cote d'Ivoire, moving fast to stop the situation in the volatile country from escalating.
The AU called on Mbeki's support in a communique on Sunday, saying "President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa has been mandated toundertake an urgent mission in consultation with the chairperson of the AU commission, with a view to promoting a political solution."
The AU also said it backs the French government on the crisis of Cote d'Ivoire, following the United Nations' stand in condemning the attack that killed nine French soldiers.
"The African Union falls in line with the (UN) Security Councilopinion and approves it," Said Djinnit, the AU commissioner in charge of peace and security, was quoted as saying.
Cote d'Ivoire government air strike on Saturday killed nine French Unicorn Force soldiers and a US civilian in Bouake, in the center of the west African country, and a clash between French troops and thousands of demonstrators in the country left at leastthree dead.
The United Nations Security Council condemned the attack. In a statement released after an emergency meeting of the council on Saturday, the council said it "condemns the attack against French forces in Bouake ... as well as the fatal air strikes in the northby the national armed forces of Cote d'Ivoire, as violations" of acease-fire reached last year.
The United Nations gave France a greenlight to pursue a tough line in Cote d'Ivoire, saying "all necessary means" could be adopted.
Receiving the go-ahead, French forces destroyed two warplanes and at least three army helicopters after President Jacques Chiracordered the destruction of all Cote d'Ivoire's war planes involvedin cease-fire violations in the country, effectively wiping out the country's airforce.
France also dispatched Mirage fighter jets to the region and 300 troops and 60 gendarmerie police to the country as reinforcements. French troops have already begun deploying in the country's main city Abidjan, where anti-French looting and riots took place after the incident.
Before the incident, the AU was already moving to stop the Ivorian government's air raids in the north. AU Chairman Olusegun Obasanjo convened an emergency meeting at his Otta farm in southwest Nigeria on Saturday on the matter.
After the meeting participated by the AU Commission Chairman Alpha Oumar Konare, Ghanaian Foreign Minister Nana Akufo-Addo and representatives from the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the AU issued a communique, calling on all parties in the fresh Cote d'Ivoire conflict to "immediately halt all hostilities."
The statement said Obasanjo, also president of Nigeria, "expressed his deep concern at the renewed fighting, particularly air bombardment by government forces on various locations in northern Cote d'Ivoire."
In Sunday's communique, the AU said the decision to mandate Mbeki was taken "as a follow-up to the decision adopted at the Otta AU-ECOWAS consultation."
Some 10,000 UN and French peacekeepers are policing a buffer zone which split the former French colony into a rebel-held north and a government-run south since a civil war grew out of a failed attempt by soldiers to oust President Laurent Gbagbo in September 2002. And the Linas Marcoussis agreement, brokered last year underpressure from France and others, ended major fighting.
But the rebels refused to start disarming in mid-October after the government failed to conduct legislative reforms as required by the accords.