French troops in Ivory Coast say they have found evidence of extensive killings in the town of Bangolo, in the west of the country.
President Laurent Gbagbo has the final say on any peace deal
A French army spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Philippe Perret, said the evidence of violence was very visible and had clearly affected many people.
But he would not confirm a statement by rebel forces in the area that more than 200 civilians had been killed.
News of the violence could put at risk an agreement on power-sharing reached between the government and rebel forces on Saturday.
The leader of the Mpigo rebel group, Felix Doh, whose troops control Bangolo, claimed that the massacre specifically targeted civilians and blamed loyalist militia fighting alongside Liberian mercenaries for committing it.
The Ivorian army has denied these claims. They have sugegested Liberian rogue groups may be to blame.
Threat to peace process
Rebel commander Ousmane Coulibaly said the victims were mostly foreigners and Ivorians from the mainly Muslim north.
"I asked the French to come and see the dead. There is an
entire Dioula neighbourhood that was decimated. All the houses
are full of bodies, only the imam escaped alive," he told Reuters news agency from Bangolo.
IVORY COAST CONFLICT
More than a million displaced
3,000 French peacekeepers
Nation divided in two
Power sharing deal still to work
"There are more than 200 bodies, maybe 300. And there are
more corpses in the bush," he said.
Shortly after the attack, late on Friday night, French troops based on the road south of Bangolo detained 110 armed men.
The group, made up of Ivorian militia and Liberian mercenaries, admitted to being pro-government forces called the "Lima" group.
Mr Doh now says that his troops may now be obliged to respond.
In an ambiguous statement, he said that if the international community did not react effectively, then he would.
It was a direct threat to the peace process that up until now has been making positive strides forward.
Less than 48 hours ago rebels agreed with ruling party politicians on the formation of a new unity government.
The deal gives nine out of the 41 portfolios to the three rebel factions and seven to the main opposition party RDR.
A key aprt of the agreement is the creation of a 15-member security council which will take responsibility for defence and interior issues.
However, the deal has still to be approved by President Laurent Gbagbo.