Gbagbo accuses France of bolstering rebelswith attack on air force

10th November 2004, Comments 0 comments

MONTREAL, Nov 10 (AFP) - Ivory Coast's President Laurent Gbagbo accused France of using an Ivorian raid as a pretext to destroy the country's air force and bolster rebel forces, according to an interview with African Geopolitics magazine.

MONTREAL, Nov 10 (AFP) - Ivory Coast's President Laurent Gbagbo accused France of using an Ivorian raid as a pretext to destroy the country's air force and bolster rebel forces, according to an interview with African Geopolitics magazine.

"I am of the feeling that this (raid) has been used as a pretext to destroy all of our army's air defenses while the rebels remain armed," Gbagbo told the magazine's Canadian correspondent in a telephone interview Tuesday.

"If this is not an implicit support for the rebels, what is it?" he asked.

Claiming he was the only party to respect the French-brokered Marcoussis peace accords of January 2003, Gbagbo said he has "nothing for which to reproach the French. I have no particular beef with France."

He insisted the Ivorian raid "was an error of mistaken identity in the line of duty, as often happens in military operations of this nature."

But he added that "the presence of French military forces in Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) does not date from the current crisis.

"French military forces have been in the country since the colonial era," he noted.

Widespread anti-French violence exploded on Saturday, when France virtually wiped out the Ivorian air force after an air strike by Ivorian troops killed nine French soldiers and a US civilian.

"I have not declared war on France, nor given the army an order to bomb a French position. It was at my request that French troops were deployed in Cote d'Ivoire to help us to end the crisis," Gbagbo stressed.

Ivory Coast, the world's top cocoa producer, has been in the throes of a low-level civil war for two years, sparked by a September 2002 bid by rebels to oust Gbagbo.

The UN Security Council was expected to vote Wednesday on a French resolution imposing sanctions on Ivory Coast, including an arms embargo.

 

© AFP

Subject: French News

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