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Ivory Coast Says UN Arms Embargo Unfair

Ivory Coast's ambassador to the United Nations is calling for an independent inquiry into the violence that has again erupted in his country.

The government of the Ivory Coast, also known by its French name Cote D'Ivoire, called a news conference in Washington to express its displeasure with a United Nations arms embargo against the country, passed last week.

"The legal authorities of Cote D'Ivoire consider this measure as unfair and biased, although, of course, as an organized state, they will respect it," said Ivorian ambassador to the United Nations, Philippe Djangone-Bi. He called for an independent investigation into the resurging violence in his country.

"We demand that an independent commission of inquiry be established to investigate into all the incidents and killings since November 6, 2004," he added.

The Ivorian government broke an 18-month ceasefire and launched air strikes against rebel positions in the north of the country earlier this month. One of those attacks killed nine French soldiers, and France retaliated by completely destroying the small Ivorian air force. The moves sparked anti-French riots by supporters of Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo.

Ivorian-American lawyer Augustin Douoguih accused former colonial power France of targeting President Gbagbo because Paris was worried about economic competition from other countries.

"He [President Gbagbo] invited American interests, Chinese, Japanese, Israeli interests to come and invest in Ivory Coast," said Mr. Douoguih. "This is what France saw as a threat to its dominance of the Ivorian economy, and made up its mind, from that point on, to try to get rid of Gbagbo."

A spokeswoman at the French embassy in Washington called the Ivorian charges "ridiculous and unacceptable" propaganda. She said France welcomes competition from other countries doing business in Ivory Coast. She said the French government is concerned, though, that the West African nation could deteriorate from an economic success story into a failed state.

Regarding any independent inquiry, she added that France has concrete evidence to back its position that Ivorian forces attacked the French base and killed its soldiers on purpose. She also said her country believes President Gbagbo is using France as an easy scapegoat to avoid any personal responsibility for the violence there.