French colonel confined to barracks after Togo outburst

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France confined a senior military officer to quarters for ten days Friday after video footage appeared online showing him threatening a Togolese press photographer in Lome.

Lieutenant Colonel Romuald Letondot has been recalled from Togo to France and punished for "bringing the French army into disrepute", foreign ministry spokeswoman Christine Fages told reporters.

Letondot has apologised to Togolese journalist Didier Ledoux, but almost half-a-million viewers have seen the footage on the YouTube video-sharing site and the scandal has tarnished France's image in Africa.

The officer, who was employed by the French foreign ministry as an advisor to the Togolese military, is seen telling Ledoux to erase pictures from his camera and ordering Togolese police to arrest him.

"Do you want someone to strike your camera, or what?" he demands, using the patronising "tu" form of address. "I don't give a damn if you're press, erase the photo please, otherwise I'll take the camera myself.

"Do you know who I am? I'm an adviser to the chief of staff of land forces," he declares, threatening to summon the Togolese president's commando guard force "to bloody well restore some order round here."

When the journalist protests he was just doing his job, the French officer turns to one of a number of uniformed Togolese riot police at the scene and, still using the insulting "tu" form, barks: "You, put him in jail."

France's West African colonies were given independence 50 years ago, but Paris has maintained close diplomatic, military and commercial ties with many of them and is often accused of adopting a high-handed attitude.

© 2010 AFP

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