PARIS : After a weekend of bloodshed in Ivory Coast, France was left pondering how — and whether — to rebuild its shattered relationship with President Laurent Gbagbo.
The already tense relations between the Ivorian leader and the government in Paris hit crisis point on Saturday, when Ivorian air force jets bombarding rebel positions in the north of the country struck a peace-keeping encampment and killed nine French soldiers.
Acting under instructions from President Jacques Chirac, French military commanders hit back and destroyed most of the Ivorian air force.
That provoked anti-French riots in the main city Abidjan which led to the deployment of hundreds of extra French troops in its former west African colony.
On Monday, both sides appeared willing to give time for the situation to return to calm.
The chief of the French armed forces General Henri Bentegeat said that after the Ivorian attack and the French military riposte Paris considered the matter closed, while Chirac said the sole objective of the French deployment had been to protect French civilians.
Gbagbo meanwhile issued a statement appealing for calm and order.
“I call on (the population) not to give in to provocation and on all demonstrators to return to their homes. All aggression against foreigners living in Ivory Coast is to be avoided … they are not our enemies,” he said on the televised address.0