- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 19, 2006

N’DJAMENA, Chad (Agence France-Presse) — President Idriss Deby insisted this week that he is in full control of the country after last week’s failed rebel offensive and that presidential elections would go ahead as planned May 3.

“We have the situation in hand throughout the whole of Chad,” Mr. Deby said at a press conference Tuesday here in the capital that was rocked by a rebel offensive last Thursday. “We have no reason not to hold the election on the date, determined under the constitution,” added Mr. Deby, who is seeking re-election after nearly 16 years in power.

He again accused neighboring Sudan of supporting and arming the United Front for Change, saying he had information that Khartoum is helping the rebels regroup to undertake fresh attacks.

Albissaty Saleh Allazam, a spokesman for the United Front for Change, meanwhile, told Agence France-Presse that the rebels would “do everything in our power to stop the elections.” Diplomats have warned that the rebellion could yet overthrow the Deby regime, plunging Chad into chaos and further destabilizing a region already reeling from famine and the war in the Darfur region of Sudan.

Mr. Deby has accused the African Union of ignoring signs of Sudan’s involvement in the Chad uprising, to which he has responded by severing diplomatic ties with Sudan.

“The African Union should condemn Sudan’s aggression in the strongest way. If my colleagues cannot say the truth to [Sudan’s President Omar] al-Bashir, this continent is off to another bad start,” he said.

France, Chad’s former colonial ruler and an ally of Mr. Deby, said on Tuesday that the rebels and an opposition group have asked for a meeting with French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy.

France has 1,350 troops stationed in Chad and gave logistical help to the army during the rebel attack, but Paris has insisted that its men are not involved in fighting and acted mainly to protect French civilians in Chad.

International observers increasingly have agreed that Sudan seeks to oust Mr. Deby, despite Mr. al-Bashir’s denials.

“The rebels are Chadians, but they are clearly supported by Sudan,” said Olivier Bercault, regional specialist for Human Rights Watch.

The United States suggested on Monday that Sudan may have had a hand in the uprising.

The dispute with Sudan has prompted N’Djamena to end its role as a mediator in Darfur, where ethnic fighting and famine have killed 300,000 people in the past three years. Mr. Deby accused Khartoum on Tuesday of recruiting young men from Darfur for the rebel forces fighting to oust him.

The leader of one of the two chief rebel movements in Darfur, Khalil Ibrahim of the Justice and Equality Movement, was expelled after “abusing Chadian hospitality” by occupying Sudan’s embassy in N’Djamena.

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