Diplomatic relations between Togo and its former colonial power France have soured after a French diplomat was expelled from the West African country. In turn, France has asked a Togolese diplomat to leave.
The Togolese government has asked Eric Bosc, the first secretary at the French Embassy in Lomé, to leave Togo.
Bosc was responsible for political affairs at the embassy.
Observers say he was expelled because the government did not like the idea of him repeatedly meeting with Togolese presidential candidate Kofi Yamgnane.
The French government claims that Bosc, a personal friend of Yamgnane, never acted unprofessionally. In retaliation, it expelled a Togolese diplomat who was living in Paris.
Kofi Yamgnane said his friendship with Eric Bosc is not based on politics.
He said that friendship does not equal political support. He added that the Togolese government has presumed that France must be backing his candidacy.
Yamgnane, 64, who has dual French and Togolese citizenship, said he has never asked Bosc to support him in his bid to become president. He said that idea goes against his stance on free and fair elections.
Campaigning is reaching a climax in Togo, where the presidential election is planned for February 28. President Faure Gnassingbé is hoping to secure a second term. He came to power in 2005 after the death of his father, the hardline ruler Gnassingbé Eyadema. He had ruled the country since 1967.
Togo gained independence from France in 1960 but it remains one of Togo's biggest commercial partners. In 2007, French exports from Togo totaled $280 million.
The incident is the latest blow to French diplomatic relations with West Africa. Earlier this week, the military party in Guinea accused the French foreign minister of backing an assassination attempt on ruler Captain Moussa Dadis Camara.