21 mins ago

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast – African leaders on Monday were offering Laurent Gbagbo an amnesty deal on condition he cedes the presidency peacefully to the internationally recognized winner of Ivory Coast's elections, an official said Monday.

The African heads of state traveled to Ivory Coast to give persuasion another chance before resorting to military intervention.

The presidents of Benin, Sierra Leone and Cape Verde also visited last week without result, and this time they were being joined by Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga. No developments were immediately announced.

Results tallied by the country's electoral commission and certified by the United Nations showed Gbagbo lost the November election by a nearly 9-percentage-point margin to opposition leader Alassane Ouattara. Gbagbo has clung to power with the backing of the army, and human rights groups accuse his security forces of abducting and killing hundreds of political opponents. The U.N. says it also has been barred entry from two suspected mass graves.

U.S. officials said they remain willing to help Gbagbo make a "dignified exit," including revisiting the visa ban so he can travel to the United States and take up a possible teaching position, but only if he agrees to step down. They said the window of opportunity for that, however, is rapidly closing.

Several other countries have also offered to provide a "soft landing" for Gbagbo, but he has refused and now appears to be digging in, officials said.