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Political crisis in Ivory Coast

The two candidates in Ivory Coast's disputed presidential election have both taken oaths of office after each claimed victory as the political crisis spiralled out of control.

Incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo defied calls from the US, France and the United Nations to concede defeat, wrapping himself in the Ivorian flag as he was sworn in for another term.

Hours later, opposition candidate Alassane Ouattara announced that he too had taken his own oath.

The developments leave Ivory Coast with two men who both claim to be president, further inflaming the political chaos in the West African nation whose once-prosperous economy was destroyed by the brief 2002-2003 civil war.

US President Barack Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Mr Ouattara is the rightful winner and that his victory must be acknowledged. The top UN official in Ivory Coast is also standing by results released on Thursday by the country's election commission that put Mr Ouattara ahead.

Prime Minister Guillaume Soro, a former rebel leader who had served in a unity government with Mr Gbagbo since a 2007 peace deal, said today he was backing Mr Ouattara, who is wildly popular in the formerly rebel-held north. Mr Ouattara said his first act as president was to reappoint Mr Soro.

"These last days have been difficult but I can tell you now that Ivory Coast is in good hands," Mr Ouattara said just hours after Mr Gbagbo held his inauguration ceremony at the presidential palace.

At his swearing-in, Mr Gbagbo renewed allegations that his supporters had been intimidated in the north, repeating the rationale used by the country's constitutional council to throw out half a million ballots that were cast in Ouattara strongholds.

"You think that you can cheat, stuff ballot boxes and intimidate voters and that the other side won't see what is going on," Mr Gbagbo said.

Ivory Coast's long-awaited presidential election was meant to restore stability in what was once one of the most affluent countries in Africa. Instead, the election has cast a growing shadow as the country now faces two political rivals who each claim to be leading the country.

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