French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie on Sunday demanded that Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo call on his troops to step back amid a standoff with supporters of Alassane Ouattara, whom France has backed as the winner of a Nov. 28 election.
AFP - France demanded Sunday that Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo hold back his troops, as tensions escalated in his standoff with Alassane Ouattara, declared winner of presidential elections.
"If he does not want to have deaths on his conscience, he needs to hold back his troops," Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie told French media.
Longtime ruler Gbagbo has refused to stand down after disputed November 28 elections and retains control of the southern armed forces, with Ouattara backed by former rebel fighters from the north.
Alliot-Marie said Gbagbo faced a choice in the coming hours: "Is he going to be someone who will stay in history as a democrat, or someone who will leave the image of someone who has fired on Ivorians?"
French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Friday called for Gbagbo to quit office by the end of the week to avoid sanctions.
Alliot-Marie dismissed Gbagbo's demand for UN and international forces to withdraw, but said France's 900 troops in the former French colony would not intervene.
"It is up to the international force to act" if necessary, she said, adding that French troops would defend themselves if directly attacked under international conflict rules.
Ouattara's victory in the elections has been recognised by the international community -- including the African Union and the United Nations Security Council.
Supporters of both rivals for the Ivorian presidency clashed at demonstrations in central Paris Sunday, leaving two people injured, police said.
Between 200 to 300 pro-Gbagbo demonstrators gathered at the Place de la Republique for a march when about 100 pro-Ouattara showed up and clashes broke out, said police, who stepped in to separate the opponents.
Brigitte Kuyo, a representative in France from Gbagbo's political party, said they were there "to denounce the interference by Sarkozy and the international community.... The Ivory Coast is a sovereign nation."
Some protestors held placards saying "Gbagbo, president" and "Ivorians say no to the French army, no to the ONUCI (UN forces), no to the occupation."
Ouattara's backers, kept at a distance by police, chanted "ADO, ADO" -- the initials of their candidate. One supporter, Bamba Nemlin, told AFP: "Gbagbo lost, he must go."
Date created : 2010-12-19