The Chad News Archive

Chad president vows to wipe out rebels 'in pay of

AFP (5/16/09)

NDJAMENA; Chad's president vowed Saturday to wipe out rebels he says Sudan backs after Khartoum accused his country of more air strikes on its territory, escalating a conflict between the neighbours.

As the UN called for talks and Sudan accused its longtime rival Chad of mounting a second series of air strikes over the border, President Idriss Deby Itno's comments raised the possibility of fresh violence.

"We have used our right to pursue and that right to pursue will continue with the support of the Chadian people," the president told journalists.

"The army has decided to finish once and for all with the mercenaries in the pay of Sudan."

His comments followed a Chadian rebel offensive earlier this month against Deby's government, which Ndjamena claims Sudan supported.

Some diplomats have said the rebels retreated back into Sudan after Chad put down the offensive.

Khartoum has denied the presence of any such armed groups in the country.

Sudan appeared to tone down its rhetoric on Saturday after having earlier threatened a military response.

Army spokesman Othman al-Aghbash said the conflict "cannot be resolved by military methods, it must be resolved through political means."

Sudanese presidential adviser Abdallah Masar told reporters that the two neighbours, which have long accused each other of supporting rebels on their respective territories, were being dragged into war by third parties.

"The point of the (air) strikes is foreign elements trying to drag Sudan into a war," Masar told reporters at a joint news conference with Aghbash, without elaborating.

Pressing ahead with his firm rhetoric, Deby said it was not in Sudan's interest to threaten Chad or threaten reprisals of which it was not capable of.

On both Friday and Saturday, Sudan accused Chad of carrying out air strikes on its territory following the offensive launched by the rebel Union of Forces for Resistance (UFR) on May 4.

Chadian government spokesman Mahamat Hissene retorted: "It is decidedly the case of the robber who cries thief."

Hissene said that any clashes between the Chadian army and the remaining rebels on the Sudanese border would be "simply the consequence of the attack on Chad organised by Sudan, using mercenaries armed, trained, financed and directed by satellite by the Khartoum regime."

But the UN deputy secretary general Haile Menkerios urged Chad to take the diplomatic path, in comments to AFP in Addis Ababa.

"The Chadian government should start negotiations with the Chadian rebels, that should happen," he said.

"There should be a peaceful resolution of the issue between the two countries."

France, the former colonial power in Chad, also expressed its concern, in a foreign ministry statement and urged the two countries to "avoid any escalation" in the conflict.

Chad has accused Sudan of supporting rebels seeking to oust Deby, while Khartoum has charged Ndjamena with backing ethnic minority rebels in the western Sudanese province of Darfur.

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