France’s Sarkozy urges Ouattara to form unity government

PARIS (Reuters) – French President Nicolas Sarkozy urged Ivory Coast presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara in a telephone call on Tuesday to form a national unity government as soon as possible, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said.

“I can testify…to a conversation between the president of the republic and Mr. Ouattara this morning in which Nicolas Sarkozy asked Alassane Ouattara to quickly take the initiative by calling for reconciliation, pardon and the constitution of a national union.”

Juppe said he believed Ouattara was a democrat and keen to achieve the peaceful reconciliation of the West African country, the world’s largest cocoa producer, which was split by a 2002-2003 civil war.

Ouattara, recognized by the international community as the winner of November’s presidential election, was likely to announce amnesties for members of Gbagbo’s administration and include some of them in his unity government, Juppe said.

Asked whether Laurent Gbagbo should be allowed to remain in Ivory Coast if he resigned from office, Juppe replied: “That is up to the Ivorian authorities to decide.”

“We have asked (the United Nations force) UNOCI to ensure his physical safety and that of his family,” Juppe added.

Defense Minister Gerard Longuet, also present at the hearing, suggested that Gbagbo might be able to go into exile elsewhere in Africa: “There are many African countries that are ready to welcome other African brothers, whatever their errors.”

(Reporting by John Irish and Sophie Louet; writing by Daniel Flynn; Editing by Matthew Jones)

France’s Sarkozy urges Ouattara to form unity government