Ivorian and French armies must 'work for peace'

12th November 2004, Comments 0 comments

ABIDJAN, Nov 12 (AFP) - Restoring peace between the military of Ivory Coast and French soldiers on peacekeeping duties in the divided country is essential, Ivorian military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jules Yao Yao said Friday.

ABIDJAN, Nov 12 (AFP) - Restoring peace between the military of Ivory Coast and French soldiers on peacekeeping duties in the divided country is essential, Ivorian military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jules Yao Yao said Friday.

"We're playing the peace card," Yao Yao told French troops at the headquarters of their 43rd Marine Infantry Battalion in Abidjan, adding that it was "essential ... to work for peace."

Ivory Coast aircraft on November 6 attacked a French position at Bouake, a rebel stronghold in the centre of the country, killing nine French soldiers and wounding others. A few hours later, the French military retaliated by wiping out most of the Ivorian air force.

Then Ivorian and French troops clashed at Abidjan's international airport, which was taken over by the French, who were Friday pursuing the evacuation of foreign nationals along with other countries.

"It's vital that nobody tries to humiliate us," Yao Yao said. "There is dialogue because the French army is not seeking to humiliate us, in spite of the balance of power in their favour."

He added, however, that "discontent" ran high among Ivorian troops. "We are a sovereign nation. Our air power has been destroyed, it is our duty to rebuild it."

The airport in the commercial capital and seat of government was reopened on Thursday to civilian traffic, but only flights by planes requisitioned or chartered by foreign governments to evacuate their nationals have been under way and no regular commercial flights are planned in coming days.

"We've got a few elements, but we still haven't recovered our freedom of action," Yao Yao said. "We wanted total freedom of action in the airport region. Nobody objects, in any case not the Unicorn force (the name given the French mission)."

"It's all a question of ways and means," Yao Yao said, adding that the Ivorian authorities wanted "the most rapid return possible" of normal life in Abidjan, which has seen anti-French riots, pillage and looting.

"We have no interest in further demonstrations. We have to get back to normal as soon as we can."

Recent attacks by Ivorian government soldiers on positions held by rebels who control half the country breached a fragile ceasefire agreed under a peace and interim power-sharing deal first reached in France in January last year, four months after Ivory Coast plunged into civil war.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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