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Latest update : 2008-06-15

French FM Bernard Kouchner, on a visit to the Ivory Coast, said the "crisis" between the two nations had been overcome. Whilst there, he visited a French school to be re-opened after 5 years of closing. (Report: N. Navarro, A.H. Gnanih)

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner pledged a return to "normal, friendly relations" with Ivory Coast Saturday, on a two-day visit to the west African former colony.
  
Kouchner's visit is the first by a French foreign minister since the Ivorian airforce bombed a French military base in the centre of the country in November 2004, killing nine soldiers.
  
Relations between the two countries had plummeted after the attempted coup in 2002 which nearly toppled President Laurent Gbagbo.
  
"France hopes that normal, friendly relations can be built once again," Kouchner said. "We don't want to ever see again the tensions which existed a few years ago."
  
Gbagbo signed a peace deal with rebels of the New Forces (FN) in Ouagadougou in March 2007, whose leader Guillaume Sor is now the country's prime minister as part of the power-sharing agreement.
  
"This visit means the beginning of re-establishing normal relations with Ivory Coast," Kouchner said after talks with Soro.
  
"There are still obstacles to be overcome. Ivory Coast must regain its credibility," he said, referring to the reunification of the country and organisation of a presidential election, which has been repeatedly delayed since the ending of Gbagbo's mandate in October 2005.
  
Kouchner said French troops would stay in the country until after the November 30 presidential election. They currently number around 1,800, backing up a larger United Nations force of around 8,000 troops.
  
Ivorian opposition leader Alassane Ouattara, a former prime minister, said in a press interview Saturday that both France and the United Nations must pay special attention to Ivory Coast in the run up to the November election.
  
Ouattara, who is standing in the poll, said international players had to ensure the "security of the process both during and after the elections."
  
"We must find 100 million CFA francs (150 million euros, 230 million dollars)," as demanded by the Independent Electoral Commission to fund the ballot, voter registration and print voter identity cards, Ouattara said.
  

Date created : 2008-06-15

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