Gbabgo accuses France of supporting rebels

16th December 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Dec 16 (AFP) - Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo accused France of siding with rebels occupying the north of his country in an interview published Thursday, but he stopped short of calling on French peacekeeping troops to leave in the wake of serious clashes with his supporters.

PARIS, Dec 16 (AFP) - Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo accused France of siding with rebels occupying the north of his country in an interview published Thursday, but he stopped short of calling on French peacekeeping troops to leave in the wake of serious clashes with his supporters.

He also said France was blocking an official investigation by his government into an attack by Ivorian jets which killed nine French troops and led to the retaliatory destruction of his air force.

Interviewed by the Paris daily Le Parisien, Gbagbo accused French forces of acting like Soviet troops who marched into Prague in 1968 when they opened fire in Abidjan during anti-French demonstrations last month.

He urged the 8,000 French residents who fled Ivory Coast after the troubles broke out to return, but said they should know that "what happened here because of their army is unacceptable."

"By destroying our aircraft, Paris assisted the rebels," he said. "Its whole attitude in Ivory Coast leads Ivorians to believe that France is with the rebels against the legal and legitimate government."

Ivory Coast, the world's largest cocoa producer and once the jewel in the French colonial empire in Africa, was a haven of peace and prosperity until a military coup in December 1999, followed by a rebellion in September 2002.

The 2002 uprising aimed at toppling Gbagbo, who the rebels said was marginalising the country's Muslim-dominated north.

A French-brokered peace, called the Marcoussis accord, was signed in January 2003 but the pact has essentially been voided by months of political infighting and sporadic violence, most recently in early November when the government air strikes on the rebel-held north reportedly claimed 85 lives, including the French troops.

The UN Security Council has called for targeted sanctions on top of an arms embargo imposed in the wake of the air strikes, including a travel ban and the freezing of assets. These were to have taken effect Wednesday in the absence of real progress towards peace, but UN diplomats said they would be put off to allow mediation efforts by South African President Thabo Mbeki to take root.

Gbagbo Thursday dismissed talk of sanctions as "rumours". A rebel delegation was in Pretoria on Thursday for talks with Mbeki.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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