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France sends more troops to Ivory Coast as tensions rise

France has sent more troops to Ivory Coast amid concerns that thousands more people could be killed as the country's presidential rivals are locked in an increasingly bloody battle.

The former colonial power has taken control of the airport in Abidjan, and sent 300 troops to add to the 1,200 already stationed as a peacekeeping force.

Most of Abidjan's five million inhabitants remained barricaded in their homes as armed looters roam the streets.

About 450 people were estimated to have been killed since November's disputed election, but the discovery of mass graves and the urban warfare now unfolding in Abidjan have raised fears for thousands more.

Alassane Ouattara is internationally recognised as the new president, but he has been unable to unseat Laurent Gbagbo following the election.

The United Nations said yesterday that those fighting for Mr Ouattara were to blame for at least 200 deaths in Duekoue.

Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general, telephoned Mr Ouattara to demand an explanation.

Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, called on his supporters to "respect the rules of war", but fell short of criticising him.

Alex Vines, an Ivory Coast expert at Chatham House, said: "The only high moral ground is the election result." (© Daily Telegraph, London)