Obama welcomes Gbabgo's arrest

The United States has welcomed the capture of Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo, saying it sent a strong signal to the world's dictators that they cannot ignore the will of their people.

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also looked ahead to a new Ivory Coast government under internationally-recognised leader Alassane Ouattara and called on militia groups to lay down their arms.

"The United States welcomes the decisive turn of events in Cote d'Ivoire, as former President Laurent Gbagbo's illegitimate claim to power has finally come to an end," Obama said in a written statement.

"This represents a victory for the democratic will of the Ivorian people, who have suffered for far too long through the instability that followed their election."

Clinton told reporters that the arrest of Gbagbo was an important moment and sends "a strong signal to dictators and tyrants throughout the region and around the world"

"They may not disregard the voice of their own people in free and fair elections and there will be consequences for those who cling to power," Clinton said.

She praised "the government and people of France and other members of the international community who have worked diligently to ensure the safety and security of the Ivorian people throughout this crisis."

"We also call on all Ivorians to remain calm and contribute to building a peaceful future for their country," she said as she stood with Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb, following their talks in Washington.

Ouattara's forces, backed by French and UN troops, captured Gbagbo in Abidjan on Monday at the climax of a deadly five-month crisis, that began with Gbagbo's refusing to step down after losing November elections.

Obama said that Washington, along with the rest of the world, strongly backed the results of Ivory Coast's election and commended UN and French forces for actions they took to protect civilians.

"For President Ouattara and the people of Cote d'Ivoire, the hard work of reconciliation and rebuilding must begin now," Obama said in a long statement.

"President Ouattara will need to govern on behalf of all the people of Cote d'Ivoire, including those who did not vote for him.

"All militia groups should lay down their weapons and recognise an inclusive military that protects all citizens under the authority of President Ouattara," he said, adding that victims of political violence needed accountability.

- AFP

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