France ready to evacuate nationals from I.Coast

9th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

France is closely following events in Ivory Coast and is ready to evacuate thousands of nationals should the situation turn ugly, its Defence Minister Alain Juppe said Thursday.

France is "extremely attentive" to the situation in the West African nation and has put its evacuation facilities on "permanent alert," Juppe told reporters on the sidelines of a European Union defence ministers meeting.

"For now violence and tensions have been avoided, and I'm glad about that," he said.

"There has not been any particular threat aimed at our citizens but this (evacuation) mechanism is on alert."

France evacuated 15,000 nationals in 2004 when political tension turned against the French, and would have to fly the same number to safety now if necessary. The French foreign ministry says 7,000 of the 15,000 in Ivory Coast have dual nationality.

Incumbent Laurent Gbagbo has rejected international demands to accept defeat after the electoral commission declared opposition leader Alassane Ouattara the winner of the November 28 election.

The standoff has raised fears of new strife eight years after the country was divided by a civil war.

© 2010 AFP

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