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South Africa ‘deeply concerned’ at Ivory Coast unrest

South Africa is “deeply concerned” by the violence in Ivory Coast, after UN and French helicopters attacked the presidency and military bases in Abidjan, the foreign minister said Tuesday.

“South Africa is deeply concerned by the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in Cote d’Ivoire,” foreign minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane told journalists.

“I don’t remember giving any mandate to anyone for an aerial bombardment in Cote d’Ivoire. We would not necessarily support that which we have not voted for,” she said.

Nkoana-Mashabane said the west African bloc ECOWAS, the African Union and the United Nations “should persist in their quest to find a peaceful political solution to the situation in Cote d’Ivoire, which is now rapidly sliding back into a civil war.”

French and UN helicopters on Monday targeted the presidency, self-declared president Laurent Gbagbo’s residence and military barracks in the main city Abidjan, a UN official said.

The attacks came hours after fighters for UN-recognised president Alassane Ouattara launched a new offensive on the city after a months-long election dispute.

South Africa has been rumoured as possible destination should Gbagbo flee to exile, but Nkoana-Mashabane said Pretoria has not been approached about providing him asylum.

“We have never invited any citizen of any country to take up asylum in South Africa. Laurent Gbagbo hasn’t spoken about seeking political asylum in South Africa” she said.

Ivory Coast’s army chief Philippe Mangou had sought refuge last week at the official residence of South Africa’s ambassador in Abidjan, but left four days later.

Nkoana-Mashabane said the deputy chief of police had also sought refuge at the residence, but left with Mangou on Sunday.

“One morning they got up and said they are leaving voluntarily. We did not have any right to stop them,” she said.

The minister did not give details on what they had done after leaving.