Officers deny mercenary claim

Two senior officers formerly attached to the Elysee Palace have strongly denied claims that they were involved in recruiting mercenaries to support the regime of President Mobutu of Zaire, and said they were victims of "a manipulation" of the facts. They denied "any participation, direct or indirect, in any mercenary activity in Zaire".

Colonel Alain Le Caro, who headed the Presidential Security Service until 1994, said the allegations "call into question my honour and I ask myself who benefits from this manipulation." He said he had contacts with most West African heads of state, but that his work was mainly with "companies or individuals" doing business in Africa; he speculated that "those engaged in shady dealings" might have it in for him.

The other man named in Le Monde's report, Robert Montoya - a former member of the anti-terrorist unit at the Elysee - was quoted as saying during a stopover in Paris that he had "never set foot in Zaire" and that he only ever represented French companies in Africa. He said that he had his own security company based at Lome in Togo.

There is no doubt that France's future role in Africa is now being seriously questioned behind the political scenes. For the second day this week, the pro-government newspaper, Le Figaro, published an article - this time by a specialist security consultant - arguing that France's 7,000-strong military presence in Africa was unsustainable and that it was time to "stop risking the lives of our soldiers in quarrels that do not concern us".

The writer was alluding to the killing of two French soldiers last week in Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic, which prompted reprisal raids by French troops, described by Paris as "a limited operation in legitimate self-defence". Yesterday the President, Jacques Chirac, defended the Bangui operation in the face of widespread criticism - including, reportedly, from some in the military.The Defence Ministry also took the opportunity to repeat its denials of any involvement in military operations in Zaire, mercenary or otherwise. But a ministry source also said: "If I was in President Mobutu's place, I would be recruiting mercenaries wherever I could find them. But this is not a French problem and has nothing to do with France."

In passing, he also admitted that France had given up on an international force for Zaire, saying that the bulk of French troops sent to the region had been withdrawn because the operation had been "abandoned".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links