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Anti-French riots in Ivory Coast

Traffic is halted as demonstrators march to French Embassy in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on Sunday.
Traffic is halted as demonstrators march to French Embassy in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on Sunday.

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ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast -- Stone-throwing mobs attacked the French embassy and army base in Ivory Coast on Sunday as thousands marched in an explosion of anger over a peace accord they said France had imposed favouring rebels.

The massive protests underlined the problems facing the power-sharing deal agreed by President Laurent Gbagbo in Paris on Saturday to end the four-month war that has split the world's top cocoa producer along ethnic lines.

Soldiers from the former colonial power used teargas and thunderous riot-control rounds to drive demonstrators from their military base in Abidjan and from the French embassy.

A local journalist told CNN that protesters had laid siege to French buildings across the Ivory Coast capital.

The protesters, calling themselves the "Patriots," remained outside the French Embassy in Abidjan on Sunday after they destroyed the French cultural centre and two French schools, journalist Bruno Girodon reported.

The riots began late on Saturday when news of the Paris-brokered peace deal was confirmed, Girodon said.

The protesters also targeted homes and businesses owned by foreigners, including French, Lebanese and North Africans.

As EU president Romano Prodi promised European aid of 400 million euros over five years, President Gbagbo appealed for order.

"I ask all Ivorians to stay calm, to go back to their homes and wait for me to come home and address them," he said in Paris where he had been for the peace talks.

President Gbagbo
Gbagbo: He says in power but has agreed to elections.

Gbagbo added that he would "jump" on a plane for Abidjan as soon as a press conference in Paris ended. It was to take place at 3 p.m. (1400 GMT).

President Jacques Chirac said on Sunday that he saw no reason to send more French troops to reinforce the 2,000 already there.

He told a joint news conference with African leaders in Paris: "It is the extremism that I condemn, and that President Gbagbo has condemned. The French government has taken a number of military measures to make sure that French and other foreign interests in Abidjan are protected."

The Abijan protesters said they were particularly angry that rebels said they had been offered defence and interior ministry portfolios.

"We want to show the world that we will never accept this deal. The rebels will not set foot here," one woman in the working-class Yopougon district, where dark columns of smoke rose from burning tyres., told Reuters.

Under terms of the agreement, unveiled on Saturday at a summit in Paris, Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo agreed to the formation of a government of national unity, led by an interim prime minister with increased powers, until new elections are held. Gbagbo will remain as president until his term ends in 2005.

The violence in the Ivory Coast began in September when rebels tried to oust Gbagbo in a coup. The peace agreement calls for amnesty for rebel soldiers and an international commission to investigate alleged human rights abuses.

Delegates at the summit agreed to nominate Seydou Diarra as interim prime minister. Diarra is a career diplomat who served as prime minister in a previous national unity government.

-- CNN's Alessio Vinci contributed to this report

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