- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 24, 2004

The U.S.-based spokesman for the opposition coalition in Ivory Coast has welcomed a French-sponsored U.N. resolution imposing an arms embargo on the West African nation.

“You cannot give that regime access to arms,” Kehi Edouard Djouha said on behalf of the coalition opposed to Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo.

Rebels control the northern half of Ivory Coast, and the opposition coalition consists of four political parties and three rebel groups that make up the New Forces.

Ivory Coast’s latest crisis began when Mr. Gbagbo’s military broke a cease-fire that followed a year of civil war with air strikes on the rebel-held north.

Warplanes also bombed a French peacekeeping post in the north on Nov. 6, killing nine French peacekeepers and an American aid worker and plunging the country into chaos. The French retaliated by destroying the Ivorian air force.

The U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1572 last week, condemning the Ivorian air strikes and reiterating support for the action carried out by the United Nations and the French peacekeepers.

Under the resolution, the arms ban will last 13 months, and the country now has a month to revive an unsteady peace process or face further sanctions.

Mr. Djouha was denied access to a speech given by Ivorian ambassador to the United Nations Philippe Djangone-Bi at the National Press Club Tuesday.

In his speech, Mr. Djangone-Bi called the arms embargo imposed by the U.N. Security Council after the outbreak of violence “unfair and biased,” though he said his country will respect it.

He added that France’s attitude in the resolution of the crisis is unacceptable, since, as the former colonial power and therefore a party to the conflict, it has led the diplomatic push for sanctions.

“One cannot be judge and judged,” he said.

At the press conference, Mr. Djangone-Bi and three colleagues presented pictures and videos they said depicted French peacekeeping troops shooting at “unarmed civilians.”

Mr. Djouha, in an interview after his expulsion by National Press Building security after the guests complained, said the French soldiers were protecting French and other foreigners seeking protection in a hotel from rampaging pro-government mobs.

He said Mr. Gbagbo had gone as far as to urge each Ivorian to “find the whites” and kill “his own little Frenchmen.”

“If the French had not stopped them, today we will be watching pictures of people jumping from the top of the hotel, as it happened in New York on September 11,” he said.

The U.N. resolution also expressed concern about the use of the press to broadcast hate messages against foreigners.

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