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Ivorian President Seeks Calm


Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo has appealed for calm after two days of anti-French looting and attacks by his supporters, while French troops have gained control of strategic areas of the commercial capital, Abidjan. This comes after French forces retaliated for a deadly raid on one of its bases in the divided country.

For the first time since the Ivorian military started its aerial bombardments Thursday, Mr. Gbagbo spoke publicly on national television.

He said while his military was trying to disarm northern-based rebels by force on Saturday, a bomb hit a French base in the north, killing nine French soldiers and one American.

He expressed sorrow for their deaths, but said more needed to be known about the incident. French forces retaliated by destroying all Ivorian military and civilian aircraft.

The Ivorian raids also violated a United Nations-backed ceasefire.

Mr. Gbagbo did not mention France specifically, but called on his supporters to stop targeting foreigners, saying Ivory Coast is grateful for international help in ending its civil war. He also asked his supporters to stop the looting.

France's immediate retaliation caused militias, youth activists and Ivorian soldiers to go on a 24-hour rampage in Abidjan and in other southern cities, attacking French military bases, French-owned businesses, schools and the homes of foreigners.

State television said four of the Ivorian protesters were killed during the unrest.

While looting continued in several areas of Abidjan Sunday, French troops took control of the city's airport, the two main bridges and affluent neighborhoods.

South African President Thabo Mbeki is due in Abidjan later in the week to help mediate the crisis.

Rebels are refusing to disarm, accusing Mr. Gbagbo of blocking political reforms included in repeated peace deals. More than 6,000 U.N. peacekeepers are also trying to help the peace process in the world's leading cocoa producer.