ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast -- Growing progovernment mobs armed with everything from assault rifles to rocks demanded a return yesterday to all-out war against Ivory Coast's rebels -- and threatened attacks on the 16,000 French civilians here if French peacekeepers refuse to clear the way.
In Paris, Foreign Ministry spokesman Herve Ladsous said France would "absolutely not" bow to militant demands in its former colony.
Surging war sentiment threatened to hurtle Ivory Coast back into a recently ended, nine-month civil war, completing destruction of what once was West Africa's most prosperous and stable nation, and destabilizing a region trying desperately to recover from civil wars.
"War! Yes!" loyalists chanted by the thousands at a progovernment militant rally yesterday. Those with assault rifles thrust them skyward to the beat of the chants.
Elsewhere in Abidjan, Ivory Coast's skyscraper-lined commercial capital, government-allied militants mounted a second day of rock-throwing, machete-waving attacks on the main French military base.
French forces fired stun grenades and tear gas against the hundreds-strong crowd besieging the barracks gates, engulfed in billowing black smoke of barricades set afire by the mob.
After looking on for two days, Ivory Coast security forces intervened in the afternoon to break up the riot at the French base.
Paris has 4,000 troops in the former French colony to enforce a power-sharing deal aimed at bringing peace in the civil war, which has left the country split between rebel-held north and government-held south.
Roughly 1,000 West African peacekeepers also are deployed in support of the agreement.
Loyalist militias are demanding that French and West African peacekeepers pull back from the 400-mile cease-fire line -- allowing government troops to reopen attacks on the northern-based rebels.
If not, some progovernment militias warned, they would open attacks on French citizens who live permanently in Ivory Coast.
"We give an ultimatum to the French . . . they have to leave the front line," militant youth leader Narcisse N'Depo declared at the military base, as loyalists hurled back tear gas canisters fired by the French.
"If not, the next targets will be the residences, houses, goods and interests belonging to the French," N'Depo said. "All that is French will be attacked."