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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 November, 2004, 17:44 GMT
Mbeki seeks to calm Ivorian storm
Demonstrators outside Hotel Ivoire on Tuesday
Anti-French feeling is still running high in the capital
South African President Thabo Mbeki is in Ivory Coast to try to restore calm after two days of violence.

Mr Mbeki said after talks with President Laurent Gbagbo that the Ivorian leader was committed to solving the country's problems peacefully.

Foreigners have been targeted amid confrontations involving thousands of Mr Gbagbo's supporters.

Meanwhile France has denied it wants to overthrow Mr Gbagbo, and that its troops shot dead 15 demonstrators.

If I get the French, I can eat them
Gbagbo supporter

On Saturday, French troops destroyed the small Ivorian air force in retaliation for a government air strike that killed nine French soldiers.

The incidents sparked a wave of anti-French violence that continued into Monday. The Red Cross said more than 600 people were hurt.

Joint patrols began on Monday evening in the commercial centre Abidjan with Ivorian and French troops, and peacekeepers from other countries within the UN force.

But the BBC's James Copnall in Abidjan says a greater show of force is only likely to provoke more hostility.

In other developments:

  • France charters several aircraft to take in supplies and evacuate those of its nationals who wish to leave

  • National Reconciliation Minister Sebastien Dano accuses French troops of killing 50 demonstrators, reports Reuters. There is no independent confirmation of this figure

  • French Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie says the attack which killed nine French troops was deliberate and carried out by Belarusian mercenaries

  • The UN Security Council considers a French-backed draft resolution for an arms embargo, travel ban and asset freeze against those violating human rights and obstructing peace and disarmament

  • Aid agencies appeal to the government to restore electricity and water supplies to rebel-held areas

  • Cocoa exports are halted from Ivory Coast, which is the world's largest producer. Clashes and a curfew are reported in the major cocoa town of Gagnoa

  • More than 1,000 Ivorians flee to Liberia as a result of the violence, the UNHCR says.

Stand-off

Mr Mbeki met Mr Gbagbo at his residence on Tuesday as large crowds of Gbagbo supporters gathered outside.

He said the Ivorian leader was committed to agreements signed with the northern rebels which brought about a ceasefire 18 months ago, despite this being broken last week by a government offensive and air strikes against rebels.

"I must say I am very pleased by the commitment of the President, Laurent Gbagbo, to implement in full Marcoussis and Accra III [peace deals] so that Ivory Coast can go through a transitional process," he said, quoted by Reuters news agency.

The agency also reported shooting soon after Mr Mbeki left the residence.

He will now report back on the crisis to the African Union, which sent him on the mission.

PEACE UNRAVELS
Protesters descend on Abidjan's Hotel Ivoire
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 demonstrators are currently involved in a stand-off with French troops and foreign residents in the Hotel Ivoire, not far from Mr Gbagbo's residence, where angry militants shouted insults at French President Jacques Chirac.

The BBC's James Copnall in Abidjan describes seeing people dressed in the colours of the Ivorian flag singing and chanting in front of barbed wire erected by peacekeepers around the hotel.

"We are not going to leave," one Gbagbo supporter told the Associated Press news agency. "If I get the French, I can eat them."

At the weekend, tens of thousands of President Gbagbo's supporters marched on the French-held main airport in Abidjan.

They also went on the rampage across the city attacking French targets.

France sent 600 more troops to back up the 4,000 soldiers it already has in Ivory Coast as part of a UN force of 10,000.


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Scenes of destruction and looting amid tension



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