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Ouattara thanks Hollande for scrapping Côte d'Ivoire debt

Reuters/Charles Platiau

Côte d’Ivoire’s President Alassane Ouattara on Thursday thanked France’s François Hollande for the cancellation of his country’s debt to France at a meeting in Paris. The two were also believed to have discussed the crisis in Côte d’Ivoire’s neighbour, Mali.

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An agreement to scrap 99.5 per cent of Ivorian debt to France was signed at the French finance ministry on Tuesday.

On Thursday Ouattara publicly thanked Hollande for the move, saying that it would free up three billion euros for “investment in social sectors”.

The cancellation was not made “simply in a spirit of generosity - we don’t want that kind of relationship - but in solidarity for the development of Côte d’Ivoire”. Hollande replied.

The agreement was in fact drawn up by Hollande’s predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, who backed Ouattara when he took the presidency following a disputed election which saw the end of the rule of Laurent Gbagbo.

Gbagbo’s supporters expressed their dismay at France’s continued support for Ouattara since Hollande’s election.

“France is in the way godfather to this regime,” said former Gbagbo adviser Toussaint Alain on Wednesday. “As the godson, Mr Ouattara should be called to order. But he comes to France, where he even receives a remittance on the debt. It looks a lot like a bonus for the blows he’s delivering to democracy in Côte d’Ivoire.”

Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) is a member of the Socialist International, as is Hollande’s party. But its only political sympathisers in France today seem to be some far-right groups and the hard-left Left Front. The Communist Party, the largest party in the coalition, demanding a parliamentary inquiry into France’s role in the Ivorian political crisis.

France’s military presence in Côte d’Ivoire and bilateral relations were also on the agenda of a meeting the two presidents described as “fruitful”.

With Ouattara currently holding the chair of the west African regional group, Ecowas, the two presidents were expected to discuss the crisis in Côte d’Ivoire’s neighbour, Mali.

West African military leaders were meeting in Abidjan on Thursday to discuss a possible intervention of a regional force in the country.

Tuareg rebels, who, along with armed Islamist groups, have taken control of the north of Mali, said Wednesday they would not participate in a unity government in Bamako but were ready to fight “terrorist groups” alongside Ecowas troops.

Interim Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra has suffered a setback in efforts to form a unity government before an Ecowas deadline of 31 July.

A grouping of key political parties, the United Front for the Defence of the republic and Democracy (FDR), accused his transitional government of “incompetence and amateurishness” and having no strategy to reunite the country “through war or negotiation”.

One of the parties in the FDR is the Malian Democratic Alliance, whose leader, Dionacounda Traoré, is president of the transitional government.

Diplomats on Thursday said he would return to his country on Friday after two months in exile in Paris following an attack on his office by opponents to his appointment.

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