ABIDJAN, Sept 29: French and US troops began a new evacuation of foreigners from Ivory Coast’s rebel-held areas Sunday as African leaders gathered in neighbouring Ghana to discuss deploying a peacekeeping force to help resolve the bloody army mutiny here.

Embattled Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo flew into the Ghanaian capital Accra as well as the presidents of Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger and Togo for an emergency summit of the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

South African President Thabo Mbeki was also present for the summit, as chairman of the African Union.

Meanwhile, the French and US armies early on Sunday began evacuating some 200 foreigners living in northern Ivory Coast in a new rescue operation, a colonel at the armed forces headquarters in Paris told AFP.

He said an operation was “currently under way to evacuate (foreign) nationals from the areas around Korhogo and Ferkessedougou who wish to leave the north of Ivory Coast.”

The operation, under French command, began at dawn and is backed by French army helicopters and French and US transport planes, Colonel Christian Baptiste said.

French troops evacuated foreigners, including trapped schoolchildren, from the rebel-held central city of Bouake over Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Fighting intensified Saturday in the centre of Ivory Coast — the world’s top cocoa producer — after a mutiny on September 19 by soldiers demanding that Gbagbo’s government rescind plans to demobilise them in December.—AFP

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