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Wednesday, 23 October, 2002, 11:47 GMT 12:47 UK
France demands end to Ivorian attacks
French soldier watching Daloa residents flee
French soldiers have deployed in a buffer zone
The French authorities have called on the Ivory Coast Government to end attacks on French citizens during the five-week uprising.

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin warned Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo that these attacks could jeopardise the French army's role in monitoring a ceasefire with rebels.

Countries going to Ivory Coast summit
South Africa
On Tuesday, French soldiers fired teargas and water cannon at thousands of government supporters who were trying to storm their base, looking for opposition leader Alassane Ouattara.

African leaders are due to arrive in the commercial capital, Abidjan, later on Wednesday for talks aimed at ending the political crisis.

The executive secretary of the regional grouping Ecowas, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, told the BBC he was confident that the leaders would find a way to forge a compromise between the Ivorian Government and army rebels who have seized control of half of the country.

Muslims targeted

French troops have deployed along the line of control separating the two sides, ahead of the planned arrival of a West African peace force.

But Mr de Villepin warned that these troops could be withdrawn if the attacks continue.

Anti-French demonstrators
Government supporters call President Jacques Chirac a 'slave-driver'
The attacks "could only compromise the task of maintaining the ceasefire, temporarily undertaken by our forces at the express request of the Ivorian authorities," his spokesman said.

After the crowd was dispersed, demonstrators threw stones at white motorists, prompting French schools in Abidjan to shut down.

Many government supporters accuse Mr Ouattara, who fled to the French embassy after the uprising, of backing the rebellion.

Mr Ouattara is a northern Muslim, like many of the rebel soldiers who control northern Ivory Coast.

Mr Gbagbo gets most of his support from southern Christians.

Foreigners, mostly Muslims from Burkina Faso and Mali, have also been the target of attacks in government-held areas.

French presence

The Patriotic Movement of Ivory Coast (MPCI) rebels demand that Mr Gbagbo resign and fresh elections held.

He came to power in 2000 following an election from which Mr Ouattara was barred on the basis that he was not an Ivorian citizen.

Mr Chambas said military chiefs-of-staff from all Ecowas countries would meet on Friday to pledge troops for a peacekeeping force which would be in place within two weeks.

The leaders of six West African countries and the head of the African Union, South African President Thabo Mbeki, are expected in Abidjan, to attend the summit.

Since the uprising began, France has doubled its military presence in Ivory Coast to about 1,000 soldiers, protecting 20,000 French citizens, Reuters reports.

Mr Gbagbo has criticised the west for not providing military aid to help the army fight the rebels.

The BBC's Paul Welsh
"Relations between the French and the Ivory Coast government are strained"
The BBC's Kate Davenport on Focus on Africa
"There were banners saying 'France is poison for Ivory Coast'"

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