French minister appeals for end to ‘anti-whitewitch-hunt’ in Ivory Coast

15th November 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Nov 15 (AFP) - French Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie Monday demanded that Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo stop his "calls for an anti-white witch-hunt."

PARIS, Nov 15 (AFP) - French Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie Monday demanded that Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo stop his "calls for an anti-white witch-hunt."

She said his first responsibility was to "re-establish calm." Alliot-Marie told Europe I radio that "racist and xenophobic" propaganda was being put out by the official radio and television and by politicians close to Gbagbo, and said the president had an obligation to "stop such manipulation."

She also said he must rein in young supporters who, she said, were responsible for a spree of violence, looting, aggression and, in some cases, rape.

Thousands of whites have been evacuated from the former French colony, which was once a star among the Francophone countries. President Jacques Chirac earlier said Gbagbo's regime had created a "disastrous" situation by persecuting whites and other foreigners, including citizens from neighbouring countries and mixed-race Ivorians.

Ivory Coast has been divided into two warring camps since September 2002, when northern soldiers mounted a rebellion against Gbagbo's rule. The present crisis erupted earlier this month when Gbagbo forces launched an assault against rebel positions, and then bombed a French army base on November 6, killing nine French soldiers and an American civilian, and injuring 28, according to Alliot-Marie.

The raid prompted France to retaliate by destroying Ivorian air force jets and helicopters, seizing Abidjan international airport and sending in more troops to protect the local population, in addition to a 4,000-man force mandated by the United Nations to separate the warring government and rebel sides.

In turn, violent anti-French protests welled up Abidjan in which, according to Ivorian authorities, 62 people were killed and more than 1,200 injured.

France has denied accusations its troops fired on the crowd and said deaths were caused in clashes between Ivorian troops and Gbagbo supporters.

France was supporting a UN resolution, to be discussed later Monday, that would impose an arms embargo and other sanctions against the Ivory Coast within a month unless the violence is brought to a halt.

In comments published in several French dailies Monday, Alliot-Marie said "the risk of a humanitarian crisis on a large scale is real.

"The instability could spill over into neighbouring countries. It is time to find the path of reason," she added.

Chirac has pledged that France would continue its UN-mandated action in the Ivory Coast and would not stand by while a situation of anarchy or fascism developed there.

The two sides in the Ivorian conflict have been in a tense standoff since early last year, when France and West African officials brokered a ceasefire deal and launched a political process aimed at curbing Gbagbo's power and bringing former rebel fighters into a unity government.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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