Chad rejects peace meeting with Sudan leader

Chadian President Idriss Déby Itno said on Wednesday he would not meet his Sudanese counterpart for peace talks and ruled out negotiations with rebel opponents unless they first abandoned their links with Sudan.

Déby’s comments to Radio France International (RFI) at an African Union summit in Egypt appeared to dim prospects for a negotiated end to the conflict between Chad and Sudan over their frontier running along the violence-plagued Sudanese region of Darfur.

”I don’t need to meet [Sudanese President] Omar Hassan al-Bashir … I’m for peace in this region, but I have no need to meet someone who has never kept his commitments,” Déby told RFI on the sidelines of the AU summit at Sharm el-Sheikh.

Oil-producing neighbours Chad and Sudan have long accused each other of supporting insurgent groups hostile to each other, and rebel attacks across the border in both directions over the last two months once again brought them close to all-out war.

Speaking to RFI, Déby accused Bashir of failing to honour a non-aggression pact they both signed in Senegal in mid-March.

Since then, Darfuri rebels opposed to Bashir raided the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, in May, while rebels seeking to topple Déby in June attacked towns in eastern Chad where European Union troops are protecting thousands of civilian refugees. Both countries blamed each other for the attacks.

Déby rejected a call for all-inclusive political dialogue made by the Chadian rebel National Alliance, saying its members were ”not rebels but mercenaries”. The rebels say Déby’s rule since he seized power in 1990 has been corrupt and dictatorial.

”If they were reasonable people and came out from the clutches of the Sudanese, if they became Chadians again, we would be ready to talk, but not in the current conditions,” he said.

The Chadian leader said arms and prisoners captured from the rebels showed they were backed by the Sudanese armed forces, and he added they operated from bases in Sudan. Khartoum and rebel spokespersons deny this.

In his comments to RFI, Déby repeated criticism of the performance of the EU military force (Eufor) deployed in eastern Chad, which has a United Nations mandate to give protection to refugees, civilians and aid workers.

After a rebel column on June 14 attacked and briefly occupied an eastern Chadian town surrounded by refugee camps under the protection of an Irish Eufor battalion, Déby had accused Eufor of ”closing its eyes” to rebel raids.

Eufor military commanders in Chad have defended their troops’ actions during last month’s rebel offensive, saying they protected the refugees and maintained their neutrality by staying out of the internal war between Déby and the rebels.

Déby said he would ”draw conclusions” about Eufor’s role at a later date in talks with the EU and the UN. — Reuters

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