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Thursday, 24 October, 2002, 15:49 GMT 16:49 UK
Burkina warns Ivory Coast
Women fleeing government-held areas
Foreigners and Muslims have fled government-held areas
Burkina Faso has urged the Ivory Coast Government to stop attacks on foreigners, which have been a feature of the five-week long rebellion.

Both Mali and France have made similar calls this week after their citizens have been attacked by government supporters, accused of backing the rebels.

Foreigners in Ivory Coast
Burkina Faso: 2.3m
Mali: 792,260
Guinea: 230,390
Ghana: 133,220
Benin: 107,500
Niger: 102,220
Nigeria: 101,360
Source: 1998 census

Burkina Faso Foreign Minister Youssouf Ouedraogo said that a West African peacekeeping team, expected to be deployed within the next two weeks, should have the job of protecting the millions of foreigners living in Ivory Coast.

On Wednesday, regional leaders urged both sides to hold immediate talks and called for the urgent deployment of a regional peace force, although no dates were set.

French soldiers are currently monitoring a ceasefire agreed last week and keeping the two sides apart.

Protect foreigners

The uprising has increased long-standing tensions between the mainly Muslim north, controlled by the rebels, and the Christian south, which backs President Laurent Gbagbo.

The three million West African ex-patriates living in Ivory Coast are mostly Muslims, associated by Mr Gbagbo's supporters with the rebellion and opposition leader Alassane Ouattara.

Many Burkinabes and Malians have been attacked or had their houses burnt down in Abidjan and other government-held areas.

"We cannot tolerate for any longer the killings of foreign civilians," Mr Ouedraogo said.

However, he did not specify what measures Burkina Faso would take.

Earlier this week, a Malian community leader was found dead, along with his brother and a close associate, in the central town of Daloa, which was last week retaken by the army from the rebel forces.

Newspaper protest

Muslims in Daloa have accused government troops of persecuting them and killing anyone associated with the opposition.

Ivory Coast is the richest country in West Africa and for many years, nationals of neighbouring countries were encouraged to go there to work on cocoa farms.

Rebel soldier
Rebels control half of the country

Military chiefs-of-staff from West African countries are due to meet on Friday to pledge troops for a peacekeeping force which would be in place within two weeks.

On Wednesday morning, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin warned President Gbagbo that attacks on Europeans on Tuesday in Abidjan could jeopardise the French army's role in monitoring the ceasefire with rebels.

Our correspondent says that the French ambassador continued to read his newspaper and refused to stand as President Laurent Gbagbo entered the room during Wednesday's summit.

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21 Oct 02 | Africa
18 Oct 02 | Africa
16 Oct 02 | Africa
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