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Last Updated: Monday, 8 November, 2004, 09:54 GMT
President Gbagbo's address - excerpts
Ivorians took to the streets to back the government

Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo has appeared on television to justify strikes against rebel targets in the north. He said he had always believed in a peaceful solution to conflict, but the rebels had failed to "see reason". He expressed regret over violence at the weekend and appealed for calm. The following are excerpts from his speech:

Ivorians, dear compatriots, dear friends of Ivory Coast. Three days ago, the defence and security forces undertook a military operation in the rebel-controlled areas. I have decided to address you and the international community this evening to give the reason and the objectives of the operation we were obliged to undertake.

It is well known that nations are sometimes faced with trials, but the strength and greatness of a nation resides in its capacity to surmount trials. For two years now, our country has undergone several trials and has been suffering from the hardships of a crisis to which a negotiated solution has not been found. All recourse to dialogue to end the war without waging war had been exhausted.

I have always considered, by culture and religious conviction, that war is a bad thing. That is why I have unreservedly adhered to all the peace accords signed here in Ivory Coast between the rebellion and the national armed forces or signed in friendly countries between political forces... Ivorians have given their all so that those who took up arms against the nation would lay them down. Alas, the rebels have refused to see reason.

Even as their combatants made a pathetic appeal to the head of state in a statement issued jointly with the defence and security forces, the political leaders of the rebellion decided to quit the disarmament process, thus compromising any hope of a negotiated peace. Ivory Coast must not come to a halt...

I wish to state that the country expresses regret for the excesses observed and I express my compassion and condolences to the families of the Ivorian, French, and US victims.
Laurent Gbagbo

The Ivorian rebellion is in an impasse, but this impasse is unfortunately that of the whole country. So we had to react. Since they occupied part of the national territory, the rebels have opened offices for the sale of Ivorian diamonds in neighbouring countries. For two years now, the rebels have been looting and selling our harvests of cocoa, coffee, and cotton in neighbouring countries...

On 6 November, the defence and security forces were carrying out their last air strikes on the rebels' military targets at Bouake... It was at that precise moment that the French military authorities announced that a bomb had fallen into their camp in Bouake killing nine people... Following this incident, the French operation force began destroying all Ivorian aircraft...

Reports of these acts carried in the French media provoked the anger of Ivorians who massively took to the streets... While waiting for the results of an inquiry into the death of the French soldiers... I wish to state that the country expresses regret for the excesses observed and I express my compassion and condolences to the families of the Ivorian, French, and US victims. I wish speedy recovery to all the wounded and urge all to remain calm, exhort them not to yield to provocation, and urge all protesters to go home...

We have neither the desire nor the intention to conquer portions of land belonging to other countries... Let me, therefore, reassure all our neighbours that this is an internal issue whose only stake is the reunification of our country, Cote d'Ivoire. I am, therefore, calling on all the neighbouring countries to trust us, and refrain from giving any support to the rebellion...

Let me recall that the aim of the peace process is to definitively put an end to the crisis through the holding of elections. It is imperative that elections should be held by the constitutional deadline of October 2005. If I am carrying out this operation today, it is because I want free and transparent elections...

I am calling for the unity of all the sons and daughters of Ivory Coast this evening. The country is calling on us. The country is watching us. The country is looking at us. I am calling for unity, and for the reconciliation of hearts. I am again urging people to remain calm, and I am asking all the demonstrators to go back home. Above all, they must not give in to provocation. May God bless Ivory Coast.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.




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