ABIDJAN, May 21 (Reuters) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Saturday that France will keep its troops in Ivory Coast to help protect its citizens in the West African nation.
Sarkozy attended the inauguration of Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara earlier on Saturday at the nation’s political capital Yamoussoukro. He said that the troops would not be used to ensure the stability of any government.
“We will maintain military forces here to protect our citizens,” Sarkozy told a gathering of French citizens in Abidjan, the commercial capital.
“But I want to make it clear between us, the French army is not here to ensure the stability of whatever government, even a friendly one,” he said.
French troops in Ivory Coast which numbered about 1,600, played a key role in ousting former president, Laurent Gbagbo, who had refused to step down after losing a November election, leading to a violent political standoff.
The impasse ended when pro-Ouattara rebels backed by the French military raided Gbagbo’s compound at the height of the fighting and seized him from his blast-proof bunker. (Reporting by Yann Le Guernigou; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Jon Hemming)