Gbagbo calls for French businessmen to return

18th November 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Nov 18 (AFP) - Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo on Thursday called on French businessmen who have fled his country amid a recent wave of unrest to return.

PARIS, Nov 18 (AFP) - Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo on Thursday called on French businessmen who have fled his country amid a recent wave of unrest to return.

"French schools were burned in Abidjan, so I understand completely that parents are leaving, concerned that their children can carry on their schooling as normal," Gbagbo told radio station France Info.

"I would have done the same thing."

"But as for the others, the businessmen, not only do I ask them to return, but I say it is in our mutual interest, on their part and on the part of the Ivory Coast, that they return.

"What are they supposed to do today in France after having invested their whole lives in the Ivory Coast?" he added.

Renewed unrest in the former French colony in west Africa erupted on November 6 when an Ivorian air force strike on a barracks used by French peacekeepers in Bouake in the rebel-held north killed nine French soldiers.

The French retaliation - effectively wiping out the air force - triggered venomous anti-French violence that left scores dead or wounded, hundreds of homes and businesses destroyed and sparked an exodus of more than 7,000 French nationals.

But Gbagbo told France Info: "My problem is not Paris. My problem is the civil war which was unleashed in my country, that is at the origin of everything."

The UN Security Council on Monday imposed an arms embargo against the world's top cocoa producer while the unrest continues.

Targeted travel bans and the freezing of assets could follow on December 15 if no progress is made towards implementing a January 2003 peace pact between the rebels and the government.

"The embargo is convenient for us. If it means that our adversaries no longer have any weapons, we will no longer need weapons either," Gbagbo.

"But in the long term, after all this, Ivory Coast will need to rebuild its forces and it will need a true army and to rebuild its air fleet."

Ivory Coast has been cut in two since the rebels took over the north of the country in September 2002.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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