- The Washington Times - Friday, November 15, 2002

France's hidden hand?
The government of the Ivory Coast suspects the hidden hand of France is behind an uprising among disgruntled soldiers who now hold about half of the West African nation, the country's ambassador to the United States said yesterday.
"This is not only a political or religious war. It is an economic war," Ambassador Pascal D. Kokora told editors and reporters at The Washington Times.
French corporations hold contracts worth billions of dollars to operate key sectors of the Ivorian economy including telecommunications, electricity, roads and water and are threatened by government plans to privatize those industries, he said.
Ivorian citizens believe those corporations are playing some role in the rebellion, especially because the rebels have heavy artillery from some outside source.
"They are using weapons that we do not have in our national arsenal," Mr. Kokora said.
He did not accuse the French government of aiding the rebels, but questioned why Paris has refused to help its former colony. The Ivory Coast has a treaty with France that requires French intervention in case of foreign invasion.
"We don't understand the French position," the ambassador said. "We have the military agreement with France, but the French insist it is a civil war."
Mr. Kokora said the leading French newspaper, Le Monde, has reported the rebels have training camps in neighboring Burkina Faso. He added that many of the rebels are English-speakers, while others have French accents that differ from Ivorians.
Both sides have been observing a cease-fire since Oct. 17. The uprising, which began in early September, has left 400 dead and about 200,000 homeless.
The ambassador also wishes the United States would speak with a more forceful voice and encourage the democratically elected government to defend itself instead of negotiate with the rebels.
"We have emphasized that this is a duly elected government. The U.S. has supported us, but they have also said there should be a political solution," Mr. Kokora said.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher on Wednesday reiterated U.S. support for the government, but also condemned the "widespread human rights abuses perpetrated both by the government and by rebel forces."
The department's human rights report criticizes the government for abuses that include police brutality, extrajudicial killings, violence against women and discrimination against the Muslim minority.
The rebels are demanding that President Laurent Gbagbo, who was elected in 2000, resign and the new elections be held in six months. Rebel negotiators yesterday walked out of peace talks.
The rebels also claim to be fighting on behalf of Muslim immigrants in the rebel-held north of the country.

New British envoy
Prime Minister Tony Blair has selected his top foreign-policy adviser to serve as the next British ambassador to the United States, the British Foreign Office said yesterday.
David Manning will replace Ambassador Christopher Meyer in mid-2003. Mr. Meyer, ambassador here since November 1997, is resigning from the diplomatic service. He is due to become the chairman of the British media-watchdog group, the Press Complaints Commission, in the spring.
Mr. Manning, 52, has developed a close working relationship with National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.

Death of a diplomat
Rishikesh Shaha, a former ambassador to the United States from Nepal, has died at the age of 75.
Mr. Shaha, also a leading human rights activist, lawyer, author and hunter, died Wednesday after a long illness.
Mr. Shaha presented his credentials to President Eisenhower on Oct. 27, 1958. His predecessor, Gen. Shankar Shumsher, was Nepal's first ambassador to the United States in 1953, but he served concurrently as ambassador to Britain.
Mr. Shaha was also a former ambassador to the United Nations and finance minister.
He had hoped to succeed Dag Hammarskjold as U.N. secretary-general, but lost to U Thant of Burma. Mr. Shaha later devoted his time to fighting for political and human rights reforms in Nepal.

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