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Last Updated: Monday, 1 December, 2003, 14:38 GMT
Ivorians besiege French military
Government supporters outside French base
Both rebels and the government have accused France of bias
French troops have fired tear gas and stun grenades at crowds outside their military base in Ivory Coast.

Some 200 government supporters, who threw stones and lit fires, demanded French peacekeepers withdraw from a buffer zone in central Ivory Coast.

A similar call on Sunday was made by men in army uniform who briefly took over state-run television.

France has said it will keep its 3,800 peacekeepers between rebel and government-held parts of the country.

The French news agency, AFP, reports that Ivorian security forces briefly intervened but then stood back despite a ban on public protests.

Both rebels and the government have accused France, the former colonial power, of bias during the year-long conflict.

The soldiers who seized national television urged President Laurent Gbagbo to resume war and called on the chief of staff to step down.

A French military spokesman has said they intended to stick with their mission.

"We have a mission to accomplish that was given to us by the United Nations," French spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Georges Peillon, told Reuters news agency.

"We will try to fulfil this mission to the end," he said.

Unscheduled address

On Saturday, French troops used teargas to stop supporters of Mr Gbagbo from marching on the rebel stronghold, Bouake.

Ivorian state TV on Sunday evening interrupted its programmes, saying a group of soldiers had forced its way into the television building in the main city of Abidjan.

The soldiers read a statement saying: "We are asking the president to allow us to resume the war."

Chief of staff Colonel Soumaila Bakayoko (l) and rebel leader Guillaume Soro (r) inspecting troops last month
Tension is growing between rebels and the army
They demanded that peacekeepers let them move to rebel-controlled areas.

They said they had what they needed to "liberate" the country within 48 hours.

"We are asking (Army Chief of Staff) General Doue and Touvoli of the National Gendarmerie to resign," the statement added.

"It is not a coup. We support the president of the republic."

The rebel New Forces hold the north, while Mr Gbagbo is in control of the largely Christian and animist south.

In September the New Forces pulled out of a power-sharing government, accusing the president of not honouring a French-brokered peace settlement.

The rebellion was launched in September 2002, with northerners accusing southerners of systematic discrimination.


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