Wed, Feb 13, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Chad threatens to expel refugees

BACK TO DARFUR? The Chadian prime minister said that the Sudanese refugees were bringing his country under attack and insisted the international community move them

AP , N'DJAMENA

Chad's prime minister demanded the international community remove hundreds of thousands of Darfur refugees from the country, and warned that if it did not act his government would drive them across the border back into Sudan's war-ravaged region.

It appeared to be a ploy to embroil the international community in Chad's years-long rebellion, and prompt it to swiftly deploy European peacekeepers in hopes they would seal Chad's border with Sudan, analyst Roland Marchal suggested.

Chadian Prime Minister Nouradin Koumakoye said that Sudan's government has fomented violence in Chad -- including backing a failed coup attempt last week -- because of the refugees' presence. Sudan has denied that it backs Chadian rebels, who often clash with government forces in the east, and who advanced into the capital, in the southwest, earlier this month before being repelled.

Koumakoye spoke as the UN reported that 12,000 new Darfur refugees had fled into Chad as Sudan bombed three border towns and Arab militias attacked. They join 280,000 Darfur refugees and another 140,000 Chadians displaced in the spillover from the violence, all dependent on foreign humanitarian aid.

"We demand that the international community transfer the population [of Sudanese refugees] from Chad to Sudan to free us," Koumakoye said.

"We want the international community to look for another country so that the Sudanese can leave. If they cannot do it, we are going to do it," he said.

Speaking in the Chadian capital of N'Djamena, he insisted that "We are being attacked by Sudan because of these refugees."

Both of the countries host rebels fighting against the other's government, said Marchal, an expert on Chad and Sudan at the Paris-based Center for International Studies and Research.

He said Chadian President Idriss Deby is not in control of the country, as he claims. Rebels are fighting his forces in the center of the desert nation, he said.

The French military spokesman in N'Djamena has confirmed the fighting.

Marchal foresaw "a low intensity war with skirmishes."

"The situation is extremely shaky and Mr. Deby knows in this type of situation it will be extremely difficult for him to prevail. Therefore he needs some kind of international support, and the way to get it is to push the refugee issue," Marchal said.

Deby, Marchal said, would be looking for the deployment of European peacekeepers to seal the border with Sudan and then for a Security Council resolution -- more than a statement of support delivered a week ago -- that would allow France and others "to intervene to fight the insurgency inside the country alongside the Chadian forces."

But the commander of the European force in Chad, Brigadier General Jean-Philippe Ganascia, said his men would not intervene to stop fighting between rebels and Chad's government.

In an interview on Sunday, Ganascia said that, had the EU peacekeepers been in place, they would have stood aside except to defend civilians.

"We wouldn't be facing or preventing the rebels' column from coming to N'Djamena," he said.

His comments came days after Deby called for the swift deployment of the European force, telling French radio Europe-1 that, had they deployed earlier, it would have "lightened the load," by freeing up his own troops.

Ganascia said he hoped the 3,700-strong French-led force and its equipment would be deployed within three months.

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