France and UN Join Fight Against Ivory Coast Incumbent President

Published on Monday 4th April 2011

French troops and United Nations peacekeepers are joining the fight against Ivory Coast's incumbent president as forces backing the country's internationally-recognized leader launch another attack against his positions in the commercial capital, Abidjan.  The United Nations says its helicopters in Abidjan have fired on forces loyal to incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo to stop them from using heavy weapons. A spokesman for the U.N. mission in Ivory Coast says helicopters fired on Gbagbo troops at the Agban and Akouedo military camps as well as the presidential palace and Mr. Gbagbo's residence in the Cocody neighborhood.French President Nicolas Sarkozy has ordered French troops to join U.N. operations to protect civilians and remove Mr. Gbagbo's heavy artillery.  A statement from the French presidency calls for the immediate cessation of all violence against civilians, saying the perpetrators of these crimes must be brought to justice.The U.N. and French intervention comes on the fifth day of fighting in Abidjan as forces backing the internationally-recognized president Alassane Ouattara launched another offensive to drive Mr. Gbagbo from power.  They entered Abidjan late Thursday and fought much of Friday and Saturday to capture the presidential palace and the Gbagbo residence.Regional diplomats say that offensive fell short, in part, because of the mortars and heavy artillery used by soldiers still loyal to Mr. Gbagbo.  Those troops have held out against pro-Ouattara fighters and are calling for reinforcements to, in their words, defend Ivorian sovereignty against mercenaries and U.N. peacekeepers.Gbagbo troops got a boost from the return of army chief of staff Phillipe Mangou, who last week took his wife and children to the residence of the South African ambassador.Mr. Gbagbo's claim to the presidency is based on the constitutional council annulling as fraudulent nearly ten percent of all ballots cast in November's run-off election. Mr. Ouatarra's claim to the presidency is based on electoral commission results certified by the United Nations.The West African regional alliance, the African Union, the United Nations, the European Union, and the United States are all calling on Mr. Gbagbo to leave power immediately so Mr. Ouattara can take charge.


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