|VOICE OF AMERICA|
SLUG: 2-321929 Ivory Coast (L-O)
TITLE=IVORY COAST (L-O)
HEADLINE: Ivory Coast Military Allowed To Fix French-Destroyed Planes
INTRO: The Ivory Coast military has been given approval to fix fighter planes and helicopter gunships crippled by French forces in November, following renewed attacks in the rebel-held north. VOA's Nico Colombant reports from Abidjan.
TEXT: The United Nations peacekeeping mission and the French rapid reaction force have given authorization to the Ivorian military for four Sukhoi jets and several helicopters to be repaired.
The repairs will take place in Abidjan under the supervision of U.N. military observers. Once repaired, the planes will not be allowed to be positioned near front lines.
Ivorian military officials said the damaged planes and helicopters now in the central administrative capital of Yamoussoukro will be brought back to Abidjan Monday, and that foreign military instructors are already in the country to begin repairs.
French forces crippled the small Ivorian military air force in November, after an attack in the rebel-held north killed nine French soldiers. Some of the Ivorian helicopters were totally destroyed and are seemingly beyond repair, while the Sukhoi jets had parts blown off.
Since then, the U.N. Security Council slapped an arms embargo against Ivory Coast.
In a statement earlier this week, the head of the French rapid reaction force, General Henri Poncet, warned against any party in Ivory Coast resuming war.
/// PONCET ACT IN FRENCH FADED UNDER ///
He said a repeat of the events of November were inconceivable, unless he said one of the parties took what he called a serious risk defying the international community.
While the Ivory Coast military resumed bombings in the rebel-held north for several days in November, supporters of President Laurent Gbagbo went on a looting rampage against the opposition and foreigners in the south, leading to the evacuation of more than ten-thousand people.
Rebels have refused to disarm, accusing Mr. Gbagbo of blocking implementation of the peace accord, initially agreed to in France in early 2003. If implemented, it would give equal rights to many northerners now treated as foreigners.
Rebel and opposition leaders are due to meet with South African President Thabo Mbeki in Pretoria Sunday. Mr. Mbeki has taken a lead mediation role since November, but rebels have accused him of siding with Mr. Gbagbo. (SIGNED)
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