France to 'bring together' nationals in Ivory Coast
French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Sunday ordered "the bringing together without delay of all French citizens in Abidjan... to ensure their protection" in Ivory Coast, the presidency said.
Sarkozy made the decision during a two-hour meeting with top officials as fighting raged in Abidjan, the main city in the west African former French colony.
Defence Minister Gerard Longuet said after the meeting that the eventual repatriation of French citizens "is a question that is being asked and which will be resolved in the coming hours."
"We will not expose any French citizens as hostages or indirect victims of clashes between the forces" of internationally recognised leader Alassane Ouattara and incumbent strongman Laurent Gbagbo, he told French media.
France estimates that 12,200 of its citizens live in Ivory Coast, including 11,800 in Abidjan.
The French presidency said that Sarkozy had also spoken three times with Ouattara on Sunday.
The French army took over Ivory Coast's main airport Sunday as the battle for Abidjan raged into a fourth day.
The French Licorne (Unicorn) force took control of the airport in the main city Abidjan and Paris reinforced its troops in the city with 300 men as more than 1,500 foreigners sought refuge at a French military camp amid violence and looting in the city.
© 2011 AFP