Raids in I.Coast 'not to depose Gbagbo': France

11th April 2011, Comments 0 comments

French forced bombarded forces loyal to Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo to avoid a bloodbath rather than to depose the veteran strongman, an aide to President Nicolas Sarkozy said Monday.

"France does not have the mission to chase out Laurent Gbagbo militarily," Henri Guaino told France 2 television. "This military intervention was requested by the UN to protect the civilian population."

France's Licorne force "is working alongside UNOCI -- the UN peacekeepers present in Ivory Coast -- to try to avoid being confronted with a bloodbath in Abidjan," the cocoa-rich nation's commercial capital.

United Nations troops and French forces attacked positions of pro-Gbagbo troops overnight after a luxury hotel serving as the base of UN-recognised president Alassane Ouattara came under fire.

A spokesman for the UN mission in Ivory Coast (UNOCI) said its peacekeepers and France's Licorne force had aimed to destroy heavy weapons that were being used against civilians.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon confirmed he had ordered the attack and repeated UN accusations that the Gbagbo camp had used an offer of talks he made last week "to regroup their forces and redeploy heavy weapons".

Guaino refused to be drawn on how long the troops of former colonial master France would remain in Ivory Coast.

"I can't make a prediction, that would be completely absurd," Guaino said.

"France is carrying out its duty to protect civilians in Abidjan and then we will see how things go in the coming hours and days."

© 2011 AFP

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