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Gbagbo Supporters Plan Anti-French Protests in Ivory Coast - 2003-02-18

French forces in Ivory Coast are on alert as government supporters threaten to launch a fresh wave of anti-French demonstrations.

Supporters of President Laurent Gbagbo say they plan to demonstrate Wednesday in front of a French military base in Abidjan.

Organizers of the march said they would block the road in front of the base for a week to protest what they say is the presence of too many French soldiers in Ivory Coast.

France, the former colonial power, deployed more than 3,000 troops in the country, following the outbreak of a rebel war last September. The French troops have been enforcing a cease-fire between loyalist troops and rebels of three factions who control half the country.

Ivory Coast has already been shaken by a series of violent anti-French protests that have prompted hundreds of French nationals to leave the country recently.

The demonstrations have been orchestrated by the Gbagbo government, which is opposed to some terms of a French-mediated peace accord that it says grants too many concessions to rebels.

As part of the accord, the president named a new prime minister, Seydou Diarra, who is setting up a new coalition government.

Mr. Gbagbo has suggested he will not accept a proposal that includes giving key Cabinet positions to rebels. In a speech recently, the president said he would abide only by the spirit of the accord.

France, the largest foreign investor in Ivory Coast, has insisted that Mr. Gbagbo apply the accord to the letter of the law.

Prime Minister Diarra traveled to Paris to attend a summit of French and African leaders. The topic of Ivory Coast's peace accord was expected to be high on the agenda.

Meanwhile, rebels with the main group, the Patriotic Movement of Ivory Coast, continued a tour of West African nations as part of a diplomatic effort to garner regional support for implementation of the agreement.