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AFRICA: Report Claims Israelis Aided Ivory Coast Military in Attacks

"Israel mercenaries assisting the Ivory Coast army operated unmanned aircraft that aided aerial bombings of a French base in the country," claimed French television station TF1 on Wednesday morning.


by Yossi MelmanHaaretz International
November 17th, 2004

"Israel mercenaries assisting the Ivory Coast army operated unmanned aircraft that aided aerial bombings of a French base in the country," claimed French television station TF1 on Wednesday morning.

Le Monde newspaper also reported Wednesday that a group of 46 Israeli advisors operated an eavesdropping and intelligence center for the Ivory Coast military.

An Israeli defense source quoted Wednesday morning on Israel Radio said there is no truth to the French reports that Israelis assisted the Ivory Coast in its attacks on French military installations.

According to the source, the Israeli unmanned aircraft confiscated by the French in the Abidjan airport, had been legally sold to the Ivory Coast by a private company not connected to Israeli military industries.

Following the confiscation of the unmanned aircraft, France asked Israel to clarify the circumstances of their presence in the West African state and Israel promised to stop supplying the Ivory Coast with military equipment.

Nevertheless, the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem said in response that "Israel is unaware of the matter."

The United Nations Security Council on Monday imposed an immediate arms embargo on Ivory Coast to spur the African country to end anti-foreigner rampages, while France concluded the evacuation of more than 5,000 westerners fleeing the violence.

The Security Council's resolution Monday also said that further sanctions, including a travel ban and an asset freeze, could be imposed if the peace process with northern rebels isn't back on track within a month.

Israel halts arms sales at French request
Israel decided to suspend arms sales to Ivory Coast in response to a French request, the Defense Ministry announced on November 9.

The request came in the wake of recent turmoil in the West African country. Ivory Coast warplanes killed nine French peacekeepers and an American aid worker in an airstrike on the rebel-held north.

France, Ivory Coast's former colonial ruler, wiped out the nation's air force on the tarmac in retaliation, sparking massive anti-French rampages by mobs of thousands in the fiercely nationalist south.

France had already requested two months ago that both the Israeli government and private Israeli arms merchants stop exporting weapons to the Ivory Coast, since this endangered French soldiers.

Over the past year, the Defense Ministry has continued to grant export permits to Israeli arms traders doing business with Ivory Coast.

Aeronautics Defense Systems, which is based in Yavneh, is one of the Israeli companies that has sold military-related goods - including drones and riot-dispersal equipment - to Ivory Coast. In addition, arms dealer Moshe Rothschild has sold Ivory Coast ammunition and light weapons made in Eastern Europe.




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