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Thursday, 30 January, 2003, 12:45 GMT
French flee Ivory Coast
French nationals at the airport
The French Government say it is not a mass evacuation
Hundreds of French nationals have left Ivory Coast on charter planes as a peace deal appears to be on the verge of collapse.

Many more of the 20,000 French nationals in Ivory Coast are planning to leave after four days of anti-French protests earlier this week.

Now things are quiet, it's a good time to leave

French resident of Ivory Coast
Supporters of President Laurent Gbagbo accuse the French of forcing him to sign a power-sharing agreement with rebels who control the largely Muslim north of the country.

Rebels say they have been promised the defence and interior ministries but this is not contained in the official text of the agreement.

The army and two cabinet ministers have condemned the deal and said it should be renegotiated.

Abidjan is reported to be quiet on Thursday and banks and shops have reopened in the commercial capital of the world's largest producer of cocoa, the raw ingredient for chocolate.

Early holidays

Mr Gbagbo has not yet delivered his address to the nation, in which he has promised to explain why he agreed to the controversial deal.

The BBC's Tom McKinley in Abidjan says that the president has little choice but to break his promise and reject the plan for reconciliation.

But France says that the man chosen as interim Prime Minister, Seydou Elimane Diarra, is due to arrive in Abidjan on Friday to start forming the new government.

PEACE DEAL
President Laurent Gbagbo
President Gbagbo remains in power
Coalition interim government named
Non-partisan prime minister appointed
Government prepares fresh elections

French nationals queuing for tickets outside the Air France offices in Abidjan say they fear this is the calm before the storm.

"I saw a sign that said 'Kill the French' - and that's worrying," said Jean-Pierre Vivet, an aid worker from Paris.

Air France suspended flights to and from Abidjan during the protests and some large French-owned companies chartered planes to fly out 264 relatives of their employees on Wednesday night.

But Air France now says it will lay on extra large planes for Friday's flights, according to the Associated Press news agency.

The French economic mission in Abidjan says that an estimated 500 people have left, according to the French news agency, AFP.

One lady at the airport said that she thinks "things are going to get worse".

"Now things are quiet, it's a good time to leave."

French schools have brought forward their mid-term holidays by two weeks because of the trouble.

The French Government stresses that it has no immediate plans to evacuate other French nationals but is continuing to monitor the situation "by the hour".

Some 2,500 French troops are monitoring the ceasefire.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Tom McKinley
"French citizens have taken the opportunity to leave the country"
Abdon Bayeto on BBC Network Africa
"President Gbagbo was under duress in Paris"

Key stories

In pictures

Analysis
See also:

28 Jan 03 | Africa
28 Jan 03 | Africa
27 Jan 03 | Africa
25 Jan 03 | Africa
25 Jan 03 | Africa
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