France not meddling in Ivory Coast: minister

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France's cooperation minister insisted here Sunday that his country was not meddling in Ivory Coast affairs following charges that some Western diplomats were trying to destabilize Laurent Gbagbo's embattled regime.

"There's no meddling. There will be no meddling," Henri de Raincourt told reporters in Bobo Dioulasso where he was attending ceremonies marking the 50th anniversary of Burkina faso's independence from France.

"This does not correspond to the vision of French policy on this continent," he added.

On Saturday, Gbagbo's newly named "interior minister" Emile Guirieoulou accused unidentified foreign diplomats of trying to suborn senior military officers, and threatened unspecified reprisals against international interference.

"For several days, civil and military members of certain Western chancelleries in Abidjan have discreetly approached senior officers in our national army," he alleged.

He warned that Gbagbo's government "will no longer tolerate meddling by any diplomat in the internal affairs of the state of Ivory Coast".

Gbagbo has become locked in a dangerous face-off with long-time enemy Alassane Ouattara after both claimed victory in last month's presidential election, declared themselves president and named rival governments.

Ouattara has been recognised by the United Nations and the international community, but Gbagbo retains control of the Ivorian army and the country's main cocoa-exporting harbours, which are key to his ability to rule.

"Facts are there, there is no proof, under any pretext, of any French interference in the internal affairs of Ivory Coast (a former French colony)," de Raincourt said.

"Ivory Coast's internal policy is the business of Ivorians and, precisely, they have spoken and it seems to me that democracy is respect of peace, freedom but also legality," he added.

And he pointedly noted that, in Paris's view, Ivory Coast's "elected president" is Alassane Ouattara.

"When the entire international community, when all African countries, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States, essentially say the same thing (Ouattara won the election), it is naturally totally inaccurate to speak of meddling," the French minister said.

UN-certified results from the November 28 run-off vote showed Ouattara as the winner, but Gbagbo's high court allies overturned them by annulling allegedly rigged ballots in parts of the north, his rival's stronghold.

© 2010 AFP

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