* Soldiers deployed in Libreville after deadly clashes
* Residents venture out but many shops still closed
* Violence sparked after President Bongo re-elected
* Challenger Ping says ballot rigged
* Ex-colonial power France says won't intervene
By Gerauds Wilfried Obangome
LIBREVILLE, Sept 2 Soldiers were deployed in the
Gabonese capital Libreville on Friday as residents ventured back
onto the streets, buying provisions and surveying damage after
two days of riots sparked by a disputed presidential election.
Clashes across the city led to three deaths and up to 1,100
arrests by Thursday afternoon, the interior minister said, as
supporters of defeated challenger Jean Ping - who claimed the
ballot was fixed - faced off against state security forces.
Some shops in the city centre were open on Friday but there
was little traffic, and locals expressed concern that the
violence - which former colonial power France and others in the
West had condemned while calling for greater transparency over
the election result - might return.
"It's a shame that after such a peaceful election we've
arrived at such a deplorable situation," said Paul Ndzembi, 57,
part of a small group discussing events on a street in the city
centre. "We're afraid the situation will get worse."
The country's electoral commission declared President Ali
Bongo the election winner by a narrow margin on Wednesday,
extending his family's near half-century rule over the
oil-producing Central African country for another seven years.
Ping, a former close ally of the president who fathered two
children with his daughter, called on Bongo to step down on
Demonstrators set fire to parliament hours after the
election result was announced. The interior of the assembly hall
was completely gutted, with seats and tables reduced to cinders,
according to a Reuters witness.
In the rioting that followed, television stations,
supermarkets, shops, and homes were looted in Libreville.
Violence also erupted in other cities and provinces, the
interior minister said.
France, the United States and the European Union on
Wednesday urged the authorities to release polling station
results for greater transparency, a request Bongo's spokesman
rejected on Thursday.
Allies of Bongo, whose family has cultivated close relations
with a succession of French presidents, expressed anger on
Sunday over a French Socialist Party statement declaring that
early results showed Ping to be the winner.
They accused France 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.
Interviewed on Friday on France 2 television, French Foreign
Minister Jean-Marc 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
France acted only when countries requested Paris' help, he
Soldiers, deployed throughout Libreville on Thursday to
reinforce the police, were positioned at crossroads on Friday
and the elite republican guard ensured security near the
presidential palace. Riot police were also visible.
President Bongo visited the parliament building late on
Thursday and also met with two police officers being treated for
gunshot wounds at a hospital.
Bongo won 49.80 percent of votes in Saturday's election
against 48.23 percent for Ping, according to the official
(writing by Joe Bavier; editing by John Stonestreet)