Chirac, Annan plan UN force for I Coast

27th January 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Jan 27 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan discussed Tuesday a plan to send UN peacekeeping troops to the west African country of Ivory Coast, divided by civil war, officials said.

PARIS, Jan 27 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan discussed Tuesday a plan to send UN peacekeeping troops to the west African country of Ivory Coast, divided by civil war, officials said.

"We are making progress and have good hopes of seeing the right conditions come together" for the deployment of 6,000 UN troops, an aide to the French leader said after Chirac and Annan met in Paris for a working lunch.

A peace plan for the former French colony has already led to the creation of an interim government, but 4,000 French soldiers and 1,200 west African troops are currently keeping the peace between government forces in the south and former rebels in the north and west.

Annan on January 9 proposed deploying more than 6,000 peacekeepers to the world's leading cocoa producer in the name of the United Nations, but the United States objected.

Given the chances of seeing a UN force move in, France has decided to keep its own Operation Unicorn in place, and "does not rule out" the possibility of maintaining troops in Ivory Coast under the UN flag, Chirac's aide said.

However, the details of any such deployment would "remain to be decided," the aide added.

Annan's proposal was echoed Tuesday by French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, who renewed France's own call for a United Nations force to take over peace-keeping operations.

"We have to put in place a peacekeeping operation. We have said all along that the United Nations is irreplaceable. We must support the initiative of Secretary General Kofi Annan to have this force set up as quickly as possible," de Villepin told the National Assembly.

Instead Washington wants to see a regional resolution to the conflict in Ivory Coast, the world's leading cocoa producer, where former rebels have joined an interim government under a peace pact signed in France a year ago.

The war was declared over last July but the country remains divided, with the former rebels still holding much of the north and west, while President Laurent Gbagbo's army and much of his political support are in the south.

© AFP

                                            Subject: France news

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