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France Calls for UN Arms Embargo Against Ivory Coast

The U.N. Security Council has held an emergency session to condemn the killing of nine French troops and an American relief woker in Ivory Coast, Saturday. The council is also considering other measures, including an arms embargo.

At an unusual Saturday evening session, the 15-member Security Council issued a strong-worded statement demanding an end to all military operations by Ivory Coast forces. The text read by the Council president, U.S. Ambassador John Danforth also endorses retaliatory actions taken by French troops and the U.N. peacekeeping force known as UNOCI. "The Security Council expresses its full support for the action taken by French forces and the United Nations Operation in Cote d'Ivoire. The Security Council confirms that French forces and UNOCI are authorized to use all necessary means to carry out fully their mandate," he said.

After the meeting, France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said he is urging the Council to impose an arms embargo and other tough sanctions on Ivory Coast's government, as well as against its leaders. He refered to the country by its French name, Cote d'Ivoire. "France thinks the time has come to adopt an embargo, an arms embargo in Cote d'Ivoire. We will discuss it with members of the Council," he said.

Ambassador de La Sabliere said France will also ask for sanctions against those blocking the peace process. French diplomats say the ambassador was referring to Ivorian leaders, possibly including President Laurent Gbagbo.

Secretary-Gerneral Kofi Annan attended the Security Council session after speaking earlier in the day with President Gbagbo, French President Jacques Chriac, as well as African Union leaders.

Thousands of machete wielding supporters of president Gbagbo were reported rampaging through the streets of Abidjan and the Ivorian capital, Yamoussoukro, Saturday. They were protesting France's destruction of Ivorian military aitcraft in retaliation for the attack on French troops.

The Secretary-General told VOA he had urged President Gbagbo to ensure there is no further outbreak of violence. "I think what is important that the hostilities stop immediately. And it is important that the president calms the population so there are not violent demonstrations in the capital, in Abidjan, where there are lots of people, not just Ivorians but foreigners, and we don't want to see the situation aggravated," he said.

More than 10,000 French and U.N. peacekeepers are in Ivory Coast, trying to prevent a renewal of the civil war that broke out after a failed attempt to oust President Gbagbo in September, 2002.

A truce reached in May of last year had halted the fighting, but efforts to reach a stable peace stalled, and government forces launched a surprise offensive last Thursday.