The UN says three generals loyal to Ivory Coast’s besieged President Laurent Gbagbo are negotiating terms for surrender in return for guarantees of safety for him and themselves.
France says negotiators are on the brink of agreeing his departure.
Mr Gbagbo is sheltering with his family in the basement bunker of his residence in the main city, Abidjan.
Troops loyal to Mr Gbagbo’s rival, UN-recognised President Alassane Ouattara, say they have surrounded the compound.
The UN says Mr Gbagbo’s military and civilian advisers are leaving him.
Three of his generals – the head of the armed forces, the head of the police and the head of the republican guard – have opened negotiations, the UN told the BBC’s Andrew Harding, who is on the outskirts of Abidjan.
‘War is over’
“We are very close to convincing him to leave power,” French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told the National Assembly in Paris.
Mr Gbagbo refused to cede power after the UN said his rival won elections last year
Mr Gbagbo’s spokesman, Ahoua Don Mello, told the Reuters news agency there were “direct negotiations based on African Union recommendations which said Alassane Ouattara is president”.
“They are also negotiating judicial and security conditions for Gbagbo’s camp and his relatives,” Mr Don Mello said.
The deputy commander of the pro-Ouattara forces, Cisse Sindou, told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme: “We won the battle. Gbagbo is with the French. He is negotiating how to leave the country.”
Mr Gbagbo had refused to leave office even though the Ivorian election commission declared him the loser of November’s run-off vote, and the UN certified the result.
Forces loyal to Mr Ouattara, a former International Monetary Fund economist, began a dramatic military offensive last week, sweeping in from the north and west.
US President Barack Obama has condemned the violence, saying it could have been averted if Mr Gbagbo had respected the election result.
“To end this violence and prevent more bloodshed, former President Gbagbo must stand down immediately,” Mr Obama said in a statement.