Gbagbo aide accuses France of Ivory Coast 'coup'

12th April 2011, Comments 0 comments

A spokesman for ousted Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo on Tuesday accused French special forces of carrying out a coup in its former colony on behalf of his rival Alassane Ouattara.

France has repeatedly denied claims that French troops had arrested Gbagbo when he was captured Monday in a bunker in Abidjan, insisting they never set foot in his compound despite having bombarded it from the air.

"It was a coup d'etat which had no other aim but to gain control of the resources of Ivory Coast," Alain Toussaint told reporters in Paris.

"Gbagbo was captured by French special forces, who took him to the Golf Hotel," where Ouattara has his headquarters, he said, sitting alongside French lawyer Jacques Verges, who specialises in defending international pariahs.

Toussaint demanded Gbagbo be released, but his call was likely to fall on deaf ears in Paris, where the government recognises Ouattara as the rightful president of Ivory Coast and Gbagbo as prisoner of his government.

"Not a single French soldier set foot in his residence," French Prime Minister Francois Fillion told parliament.

"The priority is now reconciliation and reconstruction, it's a victory for the rule of law, for democracy and for the United Nations mission in Ivory Coast," he said, brushing off critics of France's role in the conflict.

French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero also immediately dismissed Toussaint's accusations, telling AFP that "Mr. Toussaint must be unwell.

"I would be happy if he got back in touch with reality," he said.

French former foreign minister Roland Dumas also said earlier Tuesday that French troops had captured Gbagbo, who had held power since 2000 but stubbornly refused to admit defeat in a presidential election last November.

"The truth is clear and it is that the French army, on political orders, delivered his (Ouattara's) adversary," Dumas told France Inter radio.

"It even brought him to the home of his adversary, a little like in traditions of old, in antiquity," said Dumas, a senior lawyer who visited Ivory Coast recently to show support for Gbagbo.

© 2011 AFP

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