French to begin handover of Abidjan airport

22nd November 2004, Comments 0 comments

ABIDJAN, Nov 22 (AFP) - French peacekeeping troops in Ivory Coast, who took control of Abidjan's airport after the west African country's civil war escalated sharply early this month, are to redeploy, a spokesman for the French Unicorn Force said Monday.

ABIDJAN, Nov 22 (AFP) - French peacekeeping troops in Ivory Coast, who took control of Abidjan's airport after the west African country's civil war escalated sharply early this month, are to redeploy, a spokesman for the French Unicorn Force said Monday.

Colonel Henry Aussavy told AFP a day after a meeting of senior officers of the French and Ivorian armies, that "redeployment of the Unicorn mission is now on the agenda".

Ivorian Colonel Jules Yao Yao on Sunday night said on national television that "many movements in Unicorn positions are planned for the week of November 22 to 28," and that the French troops would "return to positions it held before the crisis". The French military has given no details.

Following the death of nine of its peacekeepers in an air strike by the Ivorian military on November 6, France destroyed Ivory Coast's small air force and took over the airport in Abidjan.

The moves sparked anti-French riots by supporters of Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo and led thousands of expatriates to leave the country, which has been tense and divided between government forces in the south and rebels in the north since a civil war broke out in September 2002.

The Ivorian authorities have given a casualty toll of 63 dead and more than 1,300 people injured during four days of clashes in Abidjan. No independent toll is available.

On Sunday, Yao Yao said that "the (French) units deployed at the airport at Port Bouet and the Golf Hotel in Cocody (an upmarket district in Abidjan) will pull back from their positions on Tuesday the 23rd and Saturday November 27, 2004."

The Golf Hotel has been used by members of the national reconciliation government from the New Forces rebel movement.

Yao Yao urged Ivorians to refrain from hindering the movement of French troops.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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