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French, U.S. Try to Quell a Coup in Ivory Coast - 2002-09-26

A dusk-to dawn curfew remains in effect in Ivory Coast following last week’s failed coup attempt. President Laurent Gbagbo rushed home from Italy last Friday to confront the uprising, led by disgruntled soldiers.

“We will succeed in neutralizing everyone who has infiltrated into Abidjan. And we will finish the job. We are going to hunt down systematically everyone who is hidden in the so-called makeshift districts.”

Sunday morning, France sent troops to its former colony, to protect French citizens. Ivory Coast television reported Monday as many as 300 people were killed in the violence, including the former president, Robert Geui, who is suspected of plotting the takeover.

The situation remained tense Tuesday as French troops set up roadblocks around the capital Yamoussoukro and the airport to protect both from rebel troops.

The capital is just 60 kilometers from Bouake, where rebel soldiers have held control since last week’s attempted coup. The French government says its troops are poised to evacuate French citizens and foreigners who may ask for help.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said U.S. troops have also been deployed to Ivory Coast to protect American schoolchildren attending boarding school in Bouake.

“At this point, we are not planning an evacuation of official or non-official Americans. But we do have these concerns about the safety of American citizens who are in parts of the country or are located in areas where there appears to be fighting.”

Mr. Boucher urged the rebels to disarm and try to negotiate with Ivory Coast officials to end the fighting. The government and the rebels have reportedly contacted French officials, asking them to broker a peace deal.