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Macron to meet Ivory Coast President Ouattara after election u-turn

FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron looks on as he attends a news conference at the Pine Residence, the official residence of the French ambassador to Lebanon, in Beirut, Lebanon September 1, 2020. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/Pool/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) - Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara will meet French President Emmnauel Macron on Friday just days after announcing he would run for a third-term despite protests by opponents who say the constitution forbids him to contest the October vote.

Macron has repeatedly said he wants to break from the past in which France often seemed to call the shots in its former colonies and said that it was time for older generations to hand over to Africa’s younger politicians.

In March, he had welcomed Ouattara’s initial decision not to stand again, calling him a “man of his word”. However, the sudden death of Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, who was the preferred successor of Ouattara, led to the 78-year-old deciding to run. Macron and his government have yet to react publicly.

“France’s primary concern is that this election takes place impartially in a calm climate and with all the country’s political forces,” a French diplomatic source said.

Tensions have been mounting in recent weeks with some clashes taking place between police and protesters since Ouattara announced his decision. Question marks also surround whether two of his biggest rivals, former president Laurent Gbagbo and rebel leader Guillaume Soro, will be allowed to run on Oct. 31 after they also submitted their candidacies.

The election is seen as the greatest test yet of the tenuous stability achieved since a brief conflict killed about 3,000 people following Ouattara’s first election win in 2010 against Gbagbo, who was acquitted of war crimes by the International Criminal Court last year.

“It’s not a surprise that President Ouattara meets President Macron. It’s in the interests of both countries,’ Ivory Coast government spokesman Sidi Toure told reporters in Paris on Thursday, defending Ouattara’s decision to stand again.

Reporting by John Irish; editing by Bate Felix, Editing by William Maclean

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