[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Languages
Last Updated: Friday, 20 May, 2005, 11:52 GMT 12:52 UK
French troops in Ivorian sex row
French tanks in Bouake
French-Ivorian relations have been strained
Four French peacekeepers are being investigated over accusations of sexual abuse against a girl in Ivory Coast.

The French army said it received a complaint that the four abused the girl at Madinani village, in northern Ivory Coast, earlier this month.

Neither the girl's age or identity, nor the soldiers' names, were disclosed.

Some 4,000 French soldiers are serving alongside 6,000 UN troops in the former French colony, which has been divided by a two-and-a-half year rebellion.

The French said there was as yet no evidence to confirm the allegations.

Strained relations

"We will treat this affair with the greatest seriousness if the facts are established," army spokesman Colonel Henry Aussavy told Reuters news agency.

It is the first allegation of its type against French soldiers in Ivory Coast. UN peacekeepers have recently been accused of sex crimes in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Map of Ivory Coast

Relations have been strained between the French and Ivory Coast governments since peacekeepers were sent in to patrol a buffer zone dividing government and rebel territory.

Some supporters of the Ivorian government have accused French forces of siding with the rebel forces based in the north.

Tensions came to a head last November, when nine French soldiers were killed in a government bombing raid.

The French retaliated by destroying most of Ivory Coast's air force.

Ivory Coast, once a paragon of stability and prosperity in West Africa, has been crippled by the rebellion that erupted in 2002.

A recent South African-backed peace deal, and the prospect of elections in October, has raised hopes of an end to the conflict.


RELATED BBC LINKS:

RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific