ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) — Ivory Coast security forces
fired on armed attackers yesterday as thousands of angry government
loyalists massed outside a French evacuation post for foreigners,
reportedly killing seven people and wounding 200 in violence
pitting France against its former prize colony.

Denying any responsibility, France’s military said
loyalist demonstrators opened fire as a French convoy left the
post, and Ivorian security forces returned fire.

The bloodletting erupted at a onetime luxury hotel French forces
have commandeered as an evacuation center for 1,300 French and
other foreigners rescued from rampages across the commercial
capital, Abidjan.

An Associated Press photographer saw the bodies of three
demonstrators outside a hospital, their bodies draped in Ivorian
flags.

The chaos in Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa producer
and West Africa’s former economic powerhouse, broke out
Saturday when Ivory Coast warplanes killed nine French peacekeepers
and an American aid worker in an airstrike on the rebel-held
north.

France wiped out the nation’s air force on the tarmac in
retaliation, sparking anti-French rampages by thousands in the
fiercely nationalist south.

The U.N. Security Council yesterday gave wide support to a
resolution that would impose sanctions against Ivory Coast if the
country’s government and rebels don’t return to a peace
process by the beginning of December, som diplomats said.

“It’s much more effective if you hold a gun to their
head, rather than pull the trigger,” Pakistan’s U.N.
Ambassador Munir Akram said.

The French set up their evacuation center Monday a few hundred
yards from the home of President Laurent Gbagbo, and the site has
become a flashpoint for violence.

Ivory Coast’s U.N. ambassador lashed out at France
yesterday for destroying the country’s tiny air force in
retaliation for the deaths of nine French soldiers, saying the move
robbed the military of its one advantage over rebel forces.

“The paternalistic attitude of our good friends from
France is creating the problems,” Philippe Djangone-Bi said
at the United Nations. “It is the French policy which creates
chaos.”

Abidjan’s Cocody Hospital received seven dead and more
than 200 wounded, said Dr. Sie Podipte, the emergency room
chief.

Four days of confrontations have killed at least 20 other
people, wounded 700 and shut down cocoa exports from the
world’s largest producer.

Yesterday, stunned protesters filled the hospital, and survivors
lay out the bodies of some of the dead. A woman lay on the ground,
screaming.

South African President Thabo Mbeki, sent by the 54-nation
African Union to find a political solution to the crisis, said
before yesterday’s shooting that Gbagbo had recommitted to
carrying out tension-easing measures agreed to in past accords in
the country’s 2-year-old civil war.

On Monday, Ivory Coast and French generals called on protesters
to go home after state radio and TV had urged them to mass at
Gbagbo’s home and a nearby broadcast center.

French leaders have said they hold Gbagbo — installed by
his supporters in 2000 after an aborted vote count in presidential
elections — responsible for Saturday’s airstrike and
subsequent anti-foreigner rampages.

U.N. Security Council diplomats weighed a French-backed draft
resolution for an arms embargo of Ivory Coast and a travel ban and
asset freeze of those blocking peace, violating human rights and
preventing the disarmament of combatants. China was balking at the
measures, diplomats said.

France has 4,000 peacekeepers in Ivory Coast, where a civil war
launched in September 2002 has left the country split between rebel
north and loyalist south. About 6,000 U.N. troops are also deployed
in a buffer zone.

Saturday’s bombing came on the third day of Ivory Coast
airstrikes on rebel positions, breaking a more than year-old
cease-fire.

France also said Tuesday it was readying aircraft for any
evacuations, and Spain sent an airplane for any of its nationals
who wanted to leave.

Violence also was reported in the central town of Gagnoa, with
loyalists clashing with people of other tribes, leaving several
dead and wounded, a city official said.

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