PARIS Foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on Friday that France's days of meddling in African countries' politics were over, as former colony Gabon counted the cost of riots that followed a disputed election.
The foreign ministry in Paris, along with the United States and the European Union, on Wednesday urged Gabonese authorities to release election results from individual polling stations for greater transparency.
The spokesman for the winner, President Ali Bongo, rejected that request on Thursday.
Interviewed on France 2 television on Friday, Ayrault said:
"We are Africa's partners but we do not want in any case to intervene in countries' internal affairs. That would be disrespectful of Africans, they don't ask for it".
France acted only when countries requested Paris' help, he added.
On Sunday, Bongo's allies had expressed anger over a French Socialist Party statement declaring that early results showed challenger Jean Ping to be the winner.
They accused it of failing to respect the sovereignty of a country where 14,000 French citizens live, and which hosts a French military base with 450 troops.
They said it harked back to the era of La Francafrique, when Paris played puppet-master in African countries decades after post-colonial independence, propping up leaders like Bongo's father in exchange for pushing business to French firms.
Following Wednesday's announcement of Bongo's narrow victory, Ping accused authorities of rigging the ballot
There are recent precedents of France becoming involved in African countries such as in the Ivory Coast in 2011.
After Ivory Coast's former president Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down following a disputed election, France went to the United Nation's Security Council to get a mandate to send troops and help swing a civil war in favour of Bagbo's rival Alassane Ouattara.
Gabonese government spokesman Alain-Claude Nze told French television BFM TV that the government expected France to help ease tensions and bring both sides to a peaceful resolution.
(This version of the story corrects the spelling of Gbagbo and Ouattara in paragraph 11)
(Reporting by Marine Pennetier; writing by Leigh Thomas; editing by John Stonestreet)