Life On Earth
Turmoil, French Jets Rock Ivory Coast
By Daniel Flynn
PARIS | Tue Apr 5, 2011 5:16pm EDT
(Reuters) - Ivory Coast's Laurent Gbagbo said on Tuesday that his armed forces were negotiating a ceasefire after coming under direct attack by French forces, but he denied that he was ready to surrender.
In a telephone interview with France's LCI television, Gbagbo insisted he had won November's presidential election and he called for talks with his rival Alassane Ouattara, who has been recognized as the winner by the international community.
Ouattara's forces have fought their way into the main city Abidjan after advancing across the country, and France said on Tuesday it expected a swift exit by Gbagbo.
"The army has called for the suspension of hostilities ... and it is currently discussing the conditions of a ceasefire with the other forces on the ground, but on a political level no decision has yet been taken," Gbagbo said, speaking from the presidential palace in Abidjan.
"The underlying debate continues. That debate is simple: who won the elections of November 21?" he said. "He (Ouattara) did not win the elections ... To bring peace back to Ivory Coast it is necessary for the two of us to talk, that is the most important thing."
Gbagbo criticized France for intervening in what he said was an internal political dispute, after French military helicopters late on Monday destroyed armored personnel carriers and heavy weapons belonging to forces loyal to Gbagbo.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy's government has said it was acting at the request of the United Nations and in line with the mandate of a U.N. resolution to protect civilians.
"Yesterday, Monday, France entered directly into a war against us," Gbagbo said. "France carried out military strikes with war planes and bombarded strategic sites in the (commercial) capital Abidjan."
He said the sites targeted include munitions dumps, the presidential palace and state radio and television.
"I don't understand how an electoral dispute in Ivory Coast has brought about the direct intervention of the French army."
Gbagbo sounded tired but resolute in the interview.
"I'm not a kamikaze. I love life. My voice is not the voice of a martyr, no, no, no, I'm not looking for death. It's not my aim, to die," he said.
(Editing by Mark Trevelyan)
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