Thousands of government loyalists on Monday responded to a call by state media to form a "human shield" around the home of Ivory Coast's president, facing off against French armored vehicles as fears grew that the government would be overthrown.
French and Ivory Coast military leaders, appearing together on television, appealed for calm following three days of violent protests that the Red Cross said had left more than 500 people wounded. Two hospitals reported five dead and 250 wounded in clashes on Monday alone.
The U.N. Security Council met to consider sanctions, and the African Union came out in support of French and U.N. intervention, isolating President Laurent Gbagbo.
Fighting erupted Saturday when the Ivorian air force killed nine French peacekeepers and an American aid worker in an airstrike on Ivory Coast's rebel-held north. The government called the bombing a mistake, which France rejected.
France has more than 4,000 peacekeepers in Ivory Coast, working with a U.N. force of 6,000, to guarantee a cease-fire in a civil war that broke out in September 2002. The cease-fire ended last week when the government started three days of bombing of the rebel north.
In Paris, French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie rejected claims that the strike on the French post was a mistake and demanded that peace talks between rebels and the government be reopened. The European Union, African Union and a group of West African leaders condemned Ivory Coast's attack Saturday.
A French official denied surrounding Gbagbo's house in Abidjan, saying forces were securing a temporary base at a hotel a few hundred yards away to protect about 1,300 foreigners who had taken refuge at a French military base.
"Everything should go back to normal," Gen. Henri Poncet, the French mission commander, said on state television, alongside Ivory Coast's chief of army staff, Gen. Matthias Doue. "It is absolutely not a matter of ousting President Laurent Gbagbo."
State radio and television, however, called on loyalists to gather at Gbagbo's house.
Thousands responded, chanting against the French: "The whites don't like the blacks, but we don't care!" Some signs declared, "Ivory Coast is a sovereign state."