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Europeans flee Ivory Coast

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Europeans flee Ivory Coast


Events in Ivory Coast have accelerated in the last hours with violence erupting as tens of thousands laid siege to Europeans in the Ivory hotel in Abijan. Shots were fired at Ivorian troops protecting a French military cordon around the building. They responded by firing into the crowd. At least 10 people died and up to 300 others were injured.

The country has been divided for the past two years, with a rebel north kept apart from the government-held south by a UN and African-monitored “confidence zone.” But that has been breached and a resumed civil war now looks possible.

Europeans, of which there are some 30,000 in Ivory Coast, linked to its dominance of world cocoa production, are starting to flee. Only the US and Switzerland have refused to advise evacuation. Those who have been burned out or injured are first on the list for flights. The UN Security Council is expected to approve a French-sponsored resolution today setting a December 1 deadline for the two sides to make peace or face sanctions, including an arms embargo and a travel and foreign funds freeze on individuals to be chosen at a later date.

South African President Thabo Mbeki has met with President Laurent Gbagbo, just a kilometre or so from the besieged hotel. Gbagbo has assured his visitor that peace is his priority but events seem to be slipping out of control.

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