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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 November, 2004, 23:58 GMT
French flown out of Ivory Coast
French nationals register for evacuation at Abidjan's international airport in Ivory Coast
Anti-French feeling is rampant in Ivory Coast
France is flying its nationals out of Ivory Coast after days of anti-French demonstrations.

The first plane carrying 270 people from the main city Abidjan landed in Paris on Wednesday evening, and two more flights were expected to follow.

The disturbances came in response to France's destruction of the Ivorian air force, in retaliation for the deaths of nine French peacekeepers on Saturday.

The government has called on people to return to work in riot-hit Abidjan.

The BBC's James Copnall in Abidjan said the situation in the city is calmer, with some public transport now operating, and that there is a good chance some people will return to work tomorrow.

But mobs are still active in Abidjan, he added.

Fearful

Several thousand of the estimated 14,000 French nationals in Ivory Coast are understood to want to leave the country.

More than 1,000 foreigners have taken refuge at a French military base in Abidjan while another 1,600 people from other nationalities are being sheltered at UN premises in the city.

Anti-French protestors pass by a French soldier in Abidjan
I don't have a job anymore or a house
French teacher Bruno Regis

Other foreign nationals are also preparing to leave.

"We have housewives locked into houses... they are afraid anyone can come knocking on the door," a spokesman for the UN in Ivory Coast told the BBC.

The first planeload of evacuees - carrying 105 children, family members and the most seriously injured - were met by ambulances when they landed at Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport on Wednesday.

Two further planeloads were expected during the night.

Belgium, Canada, Italy, Germany and Spain are planning to evacuate their citizens.

The UK government says its troops are on standby to go to Ivory Coast to rescue British nationals stranded there.

Peace efforts

After meeting President Laurent Gbagbo on Wednesday, South African President Mbeki praised the Ivorian leader's "commitment" to carry out peace accords.

Mr Mbeki is due to meet opposition and rebel leaders in South Africa on Thursday.

PEACE UNRAVELS
29 Sept: Parliament fails to meet deadline for political reforms promised to rebels
15 Oct: Rebels ignore deadline for disarmament
28 Oct: Rebels withdraw ministers from unity government
4 Nov: Government aircraft begin daily air strikes on rebel-held territory in north
6 Nov: An air strike leaves nine French soldiers dead; France responds by destroying Ivorian planes
7 Nov: Thousands of Gbagbo supporters demonstrate against the French in Abidjan; UN condemns Ivorian attacks

The crumbling peace process has led to a mass exodus in the west of Ivory Coast to Liberia, which is in the process of resettling hundred of thousands of Liberian refugees who had escaped its own civil war.

The UNHCR said the trickle of mainly women and children fleeing Ivory Coast to Liberia has turned into a flood of around 5,000 in the last week.

"The people who've been arriving are very traumatised," UNHCR's Peter Kessler told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

On Tuesday night, several people protesting against French peacekeepers were shot dead.

It is not clear if it was the French troops or Ivorian colleagues who fired at the crowd, which has left between 200-300 protesters injured, the Red Cross says.

Correspondents say the demonstrators feared the French troops intended to advance on President Gbagbo's residence, less than a kilometre away.

Prison break

France has said it has no intention of overthrowing President Gbagbo and has denied its troops shot at the crowd, instead blaming Ivorian soldiers.

Thousands of President Gbagbo's supporters are still massed in strategic locations in the city, our correspondent says.

French tank and Ivorian demonstrators at a rally in Abidjan
There has been four days of protests and looting in Abidjan
The Red Cross estimates that four days of clashes have left at least 1,000 people injured in Abidjan.

It has emerged at least 4,000 of 5,500 inmates at the main prison in Abidjan managed to escape at the weekend while the city was engulfed in the rioting.

They managed to disappear through a sewer in the prison yard, while work was being carried out to repair broken locks and bars after a mutiny last week, AFP news agency reported.




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What has caused recent tensions



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