Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo, besieged in his presidential compound in Abidjan, is still negotiating his departure with the UN and could surrender "within hours", France says.
However the French armed forces chief said military strikes against Mr Gbagbo could resume if he refused to go.
Mr Gbagbo is encircled by troops loyal to the recognised winner of November's disputed election, Alassane Ouattara.
Mr Gbagbo has denied he is surrendering saying he is only negotiating a truce.
French Armed forces chief Adm Edouard Guillaud told Europe 1 radio that Mr Gbagbo had twice been on the point of stepping down - on 1 April and 4 April - before pulling back.
He said negotiations with the UN had continued through the night without result.
"Unfortunately I can't see a way out for the time being, I think it's a matter of hours... in the course of the day," he said.
"He is locked in the [presidential] residence and it remains in the possession of his supporters."
Asked if Mr Gbagbo had any choice other than surrender, he said: "No, to my mind he has no other choice."