ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast - West African leaders blinked Wednesday in a showdown with Laurent Gbagbo, taking a military intervention off the table for now so that talks can continue with the incumbent leader who refuses to hand over power in Ivory Coast.
Even as the 15-nation regional bloc gave Gbagbo more time, though, defense officials from member states gathered in Nigeria.
The bloc, named ECOWAS, had vowed to use force to wrest Gbagbo from the presidential palace if he did not agree Tuesday to step aside for Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognized winner of last month's election.
The presidents of Sierra Leone, Benin, and Cape Verde delivered the ultimatum on ECOWAS' behalf, hoping to escort Gbagbo into exile. He refused to budge.
A Ouattara adviser, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Gbagbo demanded a vote recount during the negotiations with the visiting delegation and wanted amnesty if he left office. The United Nations has accused his security forces of being behind hundreds of arrests, and dozens of cases of torture and disappearance. His advisers deny the allegation.
The ECOWAS delegation reported Wednesday on its trip to Abidjan, and Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said the leaders would return to Ivory Coast on Monday.
"Whenever there is a dispute, whenever there is disagreement, it is dialogue that will solve issues," Jonathan said in Abuja, Nigeria's capital, where ECOWAS is based.
The United Nations said Gbagbo lost the Nov. 28 presidential runoff vote. Chaos in his country has already kept him in power five years beyond his mandate. The United Nations, which was tasked with certifying the election results, has insisted along with the United States and other world powers that Gbagbo hand over power to Ouattara.
In New York on Wednesday, Ivory Coast's new U.N. ambassador, Youssoufou Bamba, voiced worry about his country's future and was consulting with members of the Security Council ahead of a meeting next week on ways to help Ouattara assume power.
Among his messages, he said, was "to tell them we are on the brink of genocide."
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the United States had begun planning for the possible evacuation of its embassy in Ivory Coast.