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France denies its forces arrested Gbagbo

Video by Jonathan WALSH , Helen PERCIVAL

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2011-04-12

While France admits its forces played a part in the operation to unseat Laurent Gbagbo, military spokesperson Cmdr. Frederic Daguillon (pictured) denies that French troops made the arrest.

Standing shoulder to shoulder with the United Nations in Ivory Coast, French forces clearly played a key role in what was to be the final assault against Laurent Gbagbo.

However, French authorities denied Monday that they had played a direct role in Laurent Gbagbo's arrest. "This was an operation, in the end, that took place between Ivorians", French Defence Minister Gérard Longuet told the press. He did recognise however, that French forces in Ivory Coast had "supported" Alassane Ouattara's Republican Forces.

Nevertheless, Gbagbo's camp insisted that the French Army's role went even further, stating the French Forces of Ivory Coast - deployed under the name Licorne - arrested the former president.

Gbagbo's spokesman in Paris, Alain Toussaint, told FRANCE 24: "The French force Licorne did enter the residence of Laurent Gbagbo.

"The moment they got inside, the head of the military staff alerted me and when French Special Forces arrested the president of the republic, again, a member of the military staff called me and told me the French are here, the president will be arrested."

This has been denied by French authorities: "No French military forces got inside the residence of the Presidential palace," said Cmdr. Frederic Daguillon, the French forces spokesman in Abidjan.

According to Army spokesperson Thierry Burkhard, Licorne soldiers were deployed Monday along strategic routes in Abidjan, notably along the boulevard de France, "1.5 km from the Gbagbo's residency".

French Licorne soldiers number 980 men on the ground. While France has maintained a military force in Ivory Coast since the country's independence, Licorne operations began at the end of 2002, at the start of the politico-military crisis that finally came to a head this week.

Date created : 2011-04-12