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AU voices concern over Chad rebel foray

AFP (05/06/09)

The African Union on Wednesday expressed "deep concern" over an offensive by Sudanese-backed rebels in Chad that shattered recent efforts to normalise ties between the two neighbours.

"The chairperson of the Commission of the African Union, Jean Ping, follows with deep concern recent developments in eastern Chad, especially reports of incursions of armed rebels in this region," a statement said.

"He calls on the parties concerned to exercise restraint and demonstrate responsibility as required by the best interests of Chad and the region as a whole," the statement added.

The rebels swept deep into Chadian territory in hundreds of vehicles in a lightning offensive that began Monday, the Chadian government said, and were closing in on a key town in the east of the country.

"This escalation is all the more unfortunate in that it occurred in the wake of the agreement signed between Sudan and Chad," Ping said.

A deal brokered by Qatar and Libya was signed on Sunday in Doha and regarded as essential to any lasting settlement to the six-year-old uprising in the western Sudanese province of Darfur.

Chad has accused Sudan of supporting rebels seeking to oust President Idriss Deby Itno, while Khartoum has accused Ndjamena of backing rebels in Darfur. Sudan has denied any involvement in the rebel offensive.

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