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France and Germany Call for Their Citizens to Leave Ivory Coast

UN forces stand guard on a street in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, 22 Dec 2010.
UN forces stand guard on a street in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, 22 Dec 2010.

France and Germany are calling for their citizens to leave Ivory Coast amid a deepening crisis in the West African country.

French government spokesman Francois Baroin made the announcement after a Cabinet meeting to discuss Ivory Coast.

Baroin says Paris is now advising French not to travel to Ivory Coast and for French living there to depart, if possible.

Germany, the United States, and Belgium have issued similar warnings.

The advisories were issued while Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo continues to claim he is the country's legitimate leader. But many world powers recognize Alassane Ouattara as the rightful winner of last month's presidential elections.

About 15,000 French live in Ivory Coast. France also has extensive business ties there along with a 900-man peacekeeping force. Many in the French community have already left the country for Christmas holidays and because of the unrest.

Relations have long been rocky between the Gbagbo government and former colonial power France. During the Ivorian civil war, the government accused France of siding with the New Forces rebels. Those tensions were also on display Saturday during a rally in Abidjan by Gbagbo supporter Charles Ble Goude.

Ble Goude accused French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the United Nations of planning a genocide in Ivory Coast. He said Ivorians, not foreigners, would decide the country's destiny.

The European Union and the United States have imposed sanctions on Mr. Gbagbo and his entourage, and the United Nations has extended the mandate of its peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast. In Paris, visiting World Bank President Robert Zoellick said loans to Ivory Coast had been frozen.