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Summit of French-Speaking Countries Condemns Ivory Coast


Leaders at a summit in Burkina Faso of mostly French-speaking nations have condemned authorities in divided Ivory Coast for resuming hostilities in the rebel-held north earlier this month.

The 10th summit of the grouping of Francophone nations closed Saturday with a resolution firmly condemning the Ivory Coast armed forces for launching attacks in the rebel-held north for several days starting on November 4.

The attacks derailed peace efforts and an 18-month truce.

During the raids, a French base was also hit, killing nine French peacekeepers.

Saturday's resolution also denounced what it termed atrocities against foreigners and civilians in the commercial capital, Abidjan, during massive looting, which followed France's subsequent destruction of Ivorian military aircraft.

French President Jacques Chirac said it was important to send a firm message to help restore peace in one of Africa's most prosperous nations.

He also said Ivory Coast is still a friend and a very important nation to the French-speaking community.

Mr. Chirac also called for urgent implementation of the power-sharing peace deal, which has been updated several times since first being agreed to in France in 2003, but never implemented.

Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo did not attend the summit. He has accused Burkina Faso of backing the rebels. He has also accused France of reacting too hastily to the killing of the nine French soldiers, when it destroyed Ivory Coast's aircraft.

Mr. Gbagbo has also called on France to disarm northern rebels.

More than 30 leaders were at the summit, as well as the executive secretary of the Economic Community of West African States, Mohammed Chambas, who welcomed the resolution on Ivory Coast.

"We are happy that the Francophonie is also adding its voice, and is also engaged in the search for peace in Cote d'Ivoire," said Mr. Chambas. "The Ivorian political parties themselves, they have a huge responsibility not to allow their country to further descend into chaos and [not] to destroy that beautiful country."

The summit's main theme was supposed to be sustainable development, but diplomats said resolving the crisis in Ivory Coast became the top priority.

There were also parallel discussions between officials of Rwanda and Congo to defuse tensions in the Great Lakes region. Rwanda's government has threatened to start a new war, if ethnic Hutu militiamen are not disarmed. Congolese authorities say Rwanda is using the issue of security as it has before as a pretext to invade mineral-rich areas.

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