France says not planning armed intervention in ICoast
France said Tuesday its troops in Ivory Coast would not "take the initiative" to launch an armed intervention in the country's leadership dispute but warned it would defend its nationals there.
"France will not take the initiative for a military intervention," said French Defence Minister Alain Juppe on radio station Europe 1, acknowledging that the west African grouping ECOWAS had raised the prospect of using force.
France has 900 troops supporting a UN peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast, its western African former colony which has seen bloodshed in recent weeks in a tense standoff after a disputed presidential election.
"Our troops are only there as part of the United Nations. The only case in which clearly we would intervene is if our nationals -- of whom there are many, about 15,000 -- were threatened in any way," Juppe said.
The incumbent president of Ivory Coast, Laurent Gbagbo, has refused to cede power to Alassane Ouattara, recognised as the election winner by the country's electoral commission and international powers including the United Nations.
"France remains with the whole of the international community on this position" in support of Ouattara, said Juppe on Tuesday.
The UN says that at least 179 people have been killed in post-election violence which has raised fears of a return to civil war in what used to be the most prosperous country in west Africa.
"The international community must not give in. The stakes for Africa are extraordinarily high," said Juppe, adding that if Gbagbo "does not give up, there must be further use of sanctions."
© 2011 AFP