PARIS (Reuters) - French troops in Ivory Coast have the right to defend themselves if they come under attack, Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said Sunday.
“If they are directly attacked ... there is the right of legitimate defense,” she said in an interview with television channel TV5, radio RFI and Le Monde newspaper.
She said that international rules governing self-defense applied to the 950 French troops stationed in the Ivory Coast, a former French colony.
However, French troops would not act to separate the rival Ivorian sides if there were violence, she said, as that was the responsibility of the U.N. mission, which includes some 10,000 soldiers and police.
Ivory Coast’s incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo Saturday told U.N. and French troops to leave the country, which U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon later rejected.
Alliot-Marie said it made no sense for U.N. or French troops to leave Ivory Coast, and said Gbagbo would face international sanctions unless he accepted he lost in a November 28 presidential run-off ballot and stood down.
Gbagbo and rival Alassane Ouattara claim to have won the vote. The United Nations, France, the United States, the European Union, the African Union and West African regional bloc ECOWAS have urged Gbagbo to accept Ouattara as the rightful winner and take up an offer of exile.
Reporting by Leigh Thomas; editing by Jon Boyle