Gordon Brown, Britain's last failed Prime minister and Chancellor, has been retained by Laurent Gbagbo as a post-election consultant.
Gbagbo, Ivory Coast's presidential incumbent, was last night locked in discussions with Brown, considering the best way to stay in power. 'Lord' Peter Mandelson was also consulted several times by telephone and is standing by to fly out to Africa.
Alassane Ouattara, the internationally-recognised winner of last month's election said that the arrival of Brown was a hopeful sign. "At the moment he is the greatest expert in the world on unelected heads of government, with more experience in this field than anyone else."
Brown had earlier been allowed to enter Abidjan's Golf Hotel, currently ringed by UN troops and Mr Gbagbo's security forces. After his arrival sporadic gunfire was heard in the Abidjan neighbourhood of Abobo, a stronghold of Ouattara supporters where the death squads said to be loyal to Mr. Gbagbo have been arresting people in night-time raids on their homes.
A spokesman for 'Lord' Peter Mandelson said that as far as they knew Gordon Brown was not planning to stand for office again, and that Mandelson himself was keeping all his options open.