Final French evacuation from Ivory Coast

16th November 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Nov 16 (AFP) - The last plane chartered by the French government to evacuate foreign nationals arrived in Paris early Tuesday from violence-torn Ivory Coast.

PARIS, Nov 16 (AFP) - The last plane chartered by the French government to evacuate foreign nationals arrived in Paris early Tuesday from violence-torn Ivory Coast.

The Air France Airbus, carrying some 250 passengers, took off from Abidjan at around 7:00 pm (1900 GMT) Monday, bringing the total number of foreigners flown to Paris from its former model colony to more than 4,500 since anti-westerner violence exploded there earlier this month.

Another 1,000 have escaped on private flights.

Laurent, 42, an electric company employee, emerged from the plane and said "it's better to be here than back there. I didn't hesitate to leave."

"Some people stayed because they had no choice," said Clement, 33, adding that the streets of Abidjan had been "calm" when they left but that "that could change at any minute".

Earlier fleeing expatriates have told tales of unchecked violence, machete attacks, rapes and looting, although a French Foreign Ministry spokesman said there had been no reports of murder.

Similar flights have been arranged by other nations, with Switzerland announcing Monday that it would send a plane out overnight, able to pick up 160 people from the divided west African state, more than the total of Swiss nationals living here.

"The Swiss who decide to stay are taking a risk," the Swiss Foreign Ministry said. Another plane was expected to arrive on Tuesday from Sweden.

The country's lurch back into unrest has led even people with dual Ivorian citizenship to flee what was once a regional powerhouse.

"It hurts me when someone is so able to destroy a country that he did not build himself," said one man carrying just a small suitcase as he left his homeland, in a terse allusion to President Laurent Gbagbo.

The upsurge in violence began after nine French peacekeepers and a US aid worker were killed in an air strike by Ivorian government war planes in the north of the country, the world's top cocoa producer.

French forces retaliated, wiping out the tiny nation's air force in a move that set off deadly anti-French and anti-foreign riots and vandalism that reportedly left dozens dead.

Some 14,000 French nationals, including 8,000 with dual nationality, were living in Ivory Coast before the violence erupted on November 6.

The UN Security Council voted unanimously on Monday to impose an immediate arms embargo on Ivory Coast for a 13-month period in hopes of reviving the struggling peace process.

"The Security Council has never stopped saying that there is no military solution for the crisis in Ivory Coast. There is only a political solution," French ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said after the vote.

When civil war broke out in the Ivory Coast in 2002, the French army evacuated about 3,000 foreigners from 23 nations, most of them French.

 © AFP

Subject: French News

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