Security fears thwart evacuation of diplomats from I. Coast

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French military authorities aborted an evacuation of diplomatic personnel from Ivory Coast's main city Abidjan because of security concerns, an army headquarters spokesman said Saturday.

The evacuation began at around 3:00 am (0300 GMT) but the head of the country's mission decided to cancel the operation because "security conditions were insufficient," Colonel Thierry Burkhard told AFP.

He said the evacuation had been requested by the "government of an allied country" that he did not identify for security reasons.

French forces drew fire during the operation and French helicopters destroyed an armoured vehicle of forces loyal to Ivorian strongman Laurent Gbagbo in Abidjan's diplomatic quarter, Burkhard said.

UN and French forces on Friday evacuated ambassadors and diplomats from the Indian, South Korean, South African and Israeli embassies in Ivory Coast, UN officials said. They said the German, US and Brazilian embassies were among those awaiting UN help.

Burkhard said artillery fire was aimed at the French ambassador's residence Friday afternoon from positions held by pro-Gbagbo forces.

© 2011 AFP

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