Gbagbo 'insulted' by Chirac's fascism remark

15th November 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Nov 15 (AFP) - Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo has dismissed as "an insult" comments by French President Jacques Chirac that France will continue its UN-mandated action in the troubled west African nation and will not stand by while a situation of anarchy or fascism develops.

PARIS, Nov 15 (AFP) - Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo has dismissed as "an insult" comments by French President Jacques Chirac that France will continue its UN-mandated action in the troubled west African nation and will not stand by while a situation of anarchy or fascism develops.

"President Chirac supported the only party in Ivory Coast for 40 years. What is closer to fascism than a one-party system? We were in prison under the regime of the sole party supported by France. It's an insult," Gbagbo said in an interview published Monday in the Liberation daily here.

Referring to the recent incident in the central Ivory Coast town of Bouake when Ivorian air force planes killed nine French soldiers, Gbagbo said that "objectively France has taken the side of the rebels".

The attack on the French troops was followed by a French air assault which destroyed Ivory Coast's small air force.

The French retaliation "left me speechless," the Ivory Coast President said, adding that he found himself wondering "what had pushed Chirac to such swift and brutal action".

Gbagbo also accused colonial power France of "navel-gazing" and "forever bringing the Ivory Coast story back to themselves" while "my country is on the road to a transition towards democracy".

"France is still very involved in our internal political life, notably with the presence of its army," he added.

Gbagbo compared the presence of French troops in Ivory Coast to the Soviet invasion of Prague.

"The French soldiers are already less present in the streets. Their massive deployment was intolerable; it resembled the invasion of Prague in 1968".

Finally the Ivorian leader bemoaned his own treatment in the crisis.

"I have developed democracy and I never harmed any French economic interest," he declared.

"And then we were attacked. Rather than disarming (the rebels), it's me who is being judged. It is an unacceptable and intolerable injustice and we will not accept it," he concluded.

President Jacques Chirac said Sunday that France would continue its UN-mandated action in the Ivory Coast, saying: "We do not want to allow a system to develop that could lead to anarchy or to a regime of a fascist nature."

France has 4,000 men under UN mandate in a buffer zone between the rebel-held north and the government-controlled south of the country where civil war broke out in September 2002.

In addition, several hundred French troops are based in the main city Abidjan under bilateral agreement, and France flew in reinforcements as massive anti-French demonstrations led to mob violence and looting aimed at foreigners.

Chirac said Gbagbo's government had created a "disastrous" situation and was carrying out a witch-hunt against whites and other foreigners, including those from neighbouring countries and mixed-race Ivorians.

Ivory Coast has been divided into two warring camps since September 2002, when northern soldiers mounted a rebellion against Gbagbo's rule.

The conflict subsided into a tense standoff early last year after France and West African officials brokered a ceasefire deal and launched a political peace process which brought former rebel fighters into a unity government.

But the interim regime has struggled to make its authority felt, with Gbagbo and his allies retaining real control in the south. The hostilities erupted back into the open on November 4 when loyalist jets bombed northern cities.

One strike killed nine French peacekeepers, triggering reprisal raids from French forces which destroyed Gbagbo's small air force.

The president's supporters reacted with fury, denouncing the former colonial power as an occupying power and provoking a round of anti-French riots in the commercial capital Abidjan.

European troops have since evacuated more than 5,000 foreign civilians, and French peacekeepers have clashed with pro-government mobs.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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