UN Security Council slams rebel assault in Chad

The United Nations Security Council on Monday unanimously condemned the rebel attacks in Chad and urged world support for the embattled government as the insurgents threatened a new assault on the capital.

A statement drafted by France, Chad’s former colonial ruler, “strongly condemns these attacks and all attempts at destabilisation by force” and called on member states “to provide support in conformity with the United Nations Charter as requested by the government of Chad”.

The non-binding text, read out by the council chair for this month — ambassador Ricardo Alberto Arias of Panama — was adopted after Russia lifted objections it had raised during an emergency session of the 15-member council on Sunday.

The decision came as thousands of civilians fled Ndjamena and rebels threatened a fresh offensive to oust French-backed President Idriss Déby Itno after two days of heavy fighting saw them pull out of the capital.

On Sunday, in a letter to Arias, Chad’s UN ambassador, Mahamat Adoum, asked all member states “to provide it with all the assistance necessary to help it end this aggression”.

France’s UN ambassador, Jean-Maurice Ripert, welcomed the council’s swift adoption of the statement and pledged Paris’s continued cooperation with Déby, whom he described as “the legal authority in Chad”.

“It is essential that in this very difficult moment, President Déby get all the help he needs to end” the rebel onslaught, he said.

France has 1 450 troops based in Chad and the armed forces spokesperson, Major Christophe Prazuck, said there had been a “brief and limited contact” between French troops and the rebels on Saturday.

French Defence Minister Herve Morin said on Monday his country would only provide direct military support to Déby if it had a UN mandate to do so.

Asked about Chad’s request for help, US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters: “The French have a lot of expertise and have a leadership role on this issue. … Should they decide to do more, they have the support of the Security Council.”

In Washington, State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack said his government warned Khartoum to stop any support it might be giving to the Chadian rebels.

“We’ve gone directly to very high levels of the Sudanese government to say that if there is any support from the Sudanese government to these rebels, that should end immediately,” he said.

But Sudan again denied backing the rebels who stormed into Ndjamena in a bid to oust Déby, instead accusing Chad of interfering in its affairs.

“What’s happening in Chad is an internal matter and Sudan has nothing to do with it,” Sudan armed forces spokesperson Othman Mohammed al-Agbash said, repeating a denial made on Sunday amid heavy fighting in Ndjamena.

Déby’s government accuses Khartoum of backing the rebels, who overcame their own tribal differences to form their latest alliance, putting an end to a peace pact.

The council also hailed the decision by the African Union at its summit in Addis Ababa on Saturday to name Congolese President Denis Sassou-Nguesso and Libyan leader Moammar Gadaffi as mediators “to engage the Chadian parties with a view to ending the fighting”.

The EU said on Monday it intended to go ahead with its stalled peacekeeping mission to Chad, despite grave concerns over the fighting.

Meanwhile, the UN’s World Food Programme warned on Monday that the fighting in Chad risked disrupting food aid to hundreds of thousands of Sudanese refugees and displaced Chadians. — AFP

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