Ivory Coast crisis keeps Sarkozy defence minister home

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy, currently on a visit to India, left his defence minister at home because of the political crisis in the Ivory Coast, a presidential source said Sunday.

Alain Juppe had been scheduled to accompany Sarkozy on his four-day trip, which is partly aimed at boosting the chances of French companies chasing a series of lucrative Indian defence contracts.

"The president asked Alain Juppe to remain in France because of the situation in Ivory Coast," the source told AFP.

On the first day of his Indian trip, Sarkozy called Saturday for the "indisputable" election victory of Alassane Ouattara in the Ivory Coast to be respected after President Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down.

Former South African president Thabo Mbeki arrived in Ivory Coast Sunday in a bid to mediate an end to the worsening crisis in the former French colony.

Mbeki, dispatched by the 53-member African Union, arrived as world powers called for a peaceful resolution to the disputed election, meant to end a decade of conflict in the west African country.

© 2010 AFP

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