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DIPLOMACY

French Embassy under attack in former colony

Angry demonstrators hurled projectiles and tore down the French flag at France's embassy in the Central African Republic capital Bangui on Wednesday, protesting at a lack of help to deter rebels who have occupied a large swathe of the country.

Former colonial power France "has the tendency to abandon us," a protester said as the group arrived from an earlier sit-in outside the US embassy. "We no longer need France, France may as well take its embassy and leave."

Protesters close to embattled President Francois Bozize had begun their US embassy protest chanting calls for peace just as rebels approaching Bangui called on forces loyal to Bozize to lay down their arms.

But the peaceful protest moved to the French embassy where the mood turned violent and demonstrators broke windows and pulled down the French flag.

"This situation is completely unacceptable," said French ambassador Serge Mucetti.

"I ask the government of the Central African Republic to respect the appropriate agreements on this matter. Those who acted in such a manner are enemies of the Central African Republic," he said.

A student demonstrator at the scene accused France of "not respecting defence agreements" linking the two countries.

The offices of Air France were also attacked, an AFP reporter witnessed.

Since the end of colonisation in the 1960s, French troops stationed in western Africa have often come to the help of former colonies whose regimes were on the verge of being toppled.

The Seleka rebel coalition now controls large swathes of the north and the east of the country.

Neighbouring Chad has sent troops into the country after a request from Bozize to try and stem the rebel advance.

Seleka is made up of rebels who say the government has not honoured peace accords signed between 2007 and 2011, which offered financial support and other help for insurgents who laid down their arms.

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DIPLOMACY

France: We must work with Italy to solve diplomatic spat

The French Interior Minister said France and Italy "had to" work together on security issues, two months after a diplomatic spat led to Paris briefly recalling its ambassador.

France: We must work with Italy to solve diplomatic spat
Photo: AFP

Relations between the two countries fractured in February following repeated clashes with Italy's populist coalition government.

Paris was incensed when Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio made a surprise visit to France on February 5th to meet a group of radical “yellow vest” protesters who have led demonstrations against France's centrist President Emmanuel Macron.

READ ALSO What's behind Italy's spat with France?


Christophe Castaner arriving for the meeting i Paris on Thursday. Photo: AFP

France's Interior Minister Christophe Castaner and his Italian counterpart Matteo Salvini met at a meeting of G7 interior ministers in Paris on Thursday.

“I think I can say that the issues of combating illegal immigration or terrorism should not divide us…. We cannot deal with these issues on our own,” Castaner said after a meeting with Salvini.

“When we talk about real life, concrete things, there is no room for arguments, we have to agree,” Salivini added, at a separate news conference.

The Italian minister said he was no longer interested in the “past” and highlighted areas of agreement between the two countries, particularly on the management of the Franco-Italian border.

Salvini said France and Italy had a “common position… on defending external borders” and that France – as Italy had already done – was ready to provide “boats, men and equipment to the Libyan coastguard”.

Castaner, however, was more vague, simply saying G7 ministers had agreed “to strengthen our support for Libya and Morocco through the presence of coastguards”.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in February that a “line was crossed” with Di Maio's visit, which was organised without French authorities being informed.

Analysts and diplomats said relations were affected by the fundamentally different outlooks of Macron, a pro-European centrist, and the eurosceptic government in Rome.

There are also deep-running economic tensions, competition for influence in Libya, and a sense in Italy that France has done little to help its neighbour cope with the arrival of hundreds of thousands of migrants in recent years.

The last time Paris recalled its ambassador to Rome was during the World War II when Italy under leader Benito Mussolini invaded France in 1940.

Foreign ministers from the G7 – the United States, Italy, France, Canada, Germany, Britain and Japan – are to meet on Friday and Saturday in the northern French resort of Dinard.

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