Sudan 'clearly' backs Chadian rebels: diplomats

Posted in Africa | 19-Apr-06 | Source: The Daily Star (Lebanon Edition)

Libya starts dialogue in effort to ease tensions

Chadian rebels who advanced on the capital in a fleet of brand new Toyotas had clear support from Sudan which wants to replace President Idriss Deby Itno with a pro-Sudanese leader, diplomats and human rights groups in the Chadian capital N'Djamena said Tuesday.

International observers alleged logistical and political support by Sudan for the rebels of the Chadian United Front for Change (FUC), a day after the United States branded such support "unacceptable."

"The FUC rebels are Chadians, but they are clearly supported by Sudan," said Olivier Bercault, regional specialist for the global rights group Human Rights Watch.

An armed movement from the east of Chad cannot arrive in N'Djamena in a few days without logistical support from Khartoum," he said, referring to the FUC forces that traveled some 800 kilometers to fight forces loyal to Deby around the capital last week.

The rebels were equipped with "dozens of new Toyotas," he added.

Chad's government said accused Sudan of backing the coup attempt, though the FUC has denied receiving support from Sudan.

A French diplomatic source said Khartoum supports FUC leader Mahamat Nour Abdel-Karim with a view to toppling Deby, who is accused of supporting a rebellion in Sudan's Darfur region against the Khartoum government.

After repelling last week's coup attempt, Chadian authorities displayed what they said were captured Sudanese mercenary fighters as well as arms and other materials it said were evidence of Sudanese involvement.

International observers say Nour's forces receive support from Darfur, which borders eastern Chad. One such source said Chadian rebels had bases in Al-Geneina, the capital of the Sudanese state of West Darfur.

"They benefit from the open support of auxiliary militias from Khartoum. Logistical support, [support] in arms and provisions," the observer said.

Shortly after the founding of the FUC, one of the group's chiefs, Abdel-Wahit About, said that the FUC had "close and friendly" ties with Khartoum.

About denied receiving material support from Sudan.

But the allegations of Sudan's involvement were supported Tuesday even by the opposition to the government in Chad.

"Sudan aids the FUC materially. It's plain to see," said Ngarleji Yorongar, a fierce opponent of Deby. The leadership of Mahamat Nour "is a creation of the Sudanese, and today he is sufficiently armed and supported to take power in N'Djamena."

Sources formerly close to Nour also say he fought alongside the Sudanese army against rebels in Darfur.

The United States suggested Monday that Sudan may have been involved in the failed rebel offensive in Chad, and said it warned Khartoum such action was "unacceptable."

Washington stopped short of officially endorsing Chad's allegations that the Sudanese had armed the rebels.

In an effort to ease tensions between Chad and Sudan, a Libyan envoy started holding talks in Khartoum Tuesday.

Libyan African Affairs Minister Ali al-Triki told Sudan's Omdurman radio he was optimistic the row could be overcome and that the two neighbors would soon resume contacts.

"Our hope is high that we will overcome this problem," he said after meeting Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and Foreign Minister Lam Akol Monday.

Triki, who said he had also met Chadian President Idriss Deby on Sunday, voiced his hope that a committee set up during a mini-summit last February in Tripoli to monitor the two countries' volatile border would be reactivated. - Agencies