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Chad president promises international probe

Latest update : 2008-02-28

Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno said he would launch an "international probe" into missing opposition leaders after talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

N'DJAMENA, Feb 27 (Reuters) - Chad's President Idriss Deby
met French leader Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday and announced an
international inquiry into a rebel raid on the capital and the
disappearance of opposition politicians.

Sarkozy, in Chad hoping to clarify the fate of the missing
opposition leaders and push for cross-party talks, met Deby at
the palace where he was besieged during two days of heavy
fighting on Feb 2-3 which Deby said killed more than 400

A planned joint news conference was cancelled at the last
moment and Sarkozy left without talking to journalists.

"Decisions have been taken, including the setting up of an
international inquiry to shed light on all things that happened
in N'Djamena during this period," Deby told reporters.

France, Chad's former colonial ruler and long-term ally,
came to Deby's aid during the attack, delivering ammunition to
his troops and drafting a U.N. resolution in his support.

That prompted Deby to consider pardoning six French aid
workers in jail in France for trying to kidnap 103 Chadian
children in a high-profile case that tested diplomatic ties.

But since the rebels withdrew, France has steadily increased
pressure on Deby's administration to talk to the opposition and
produce three politicians dragged from their homes during the
fighting, which aid workers say killed more than 250 people.

Former President Lol Mahamat Choua has been released under
house arrest, but Ibni Oumar Mahamat Saleh and Ngarlejy Yorongar
have yet to be found -- although Deby's government says Yorongar
was spotted last week in N'Djamena.

Before leaving for Chad, Sarkozy met representatives from
six international non-governmental organisations, including
Human Rights Watch, which has said he should not visit Chad
until the government proved the opposition members were alive.

"He told them he favoured the creation of a credible
commission of inquiry into the disappearance of the opposition
figures and that he favoured the resumption of political
dialogue," Sarkozy's spokesman David Martinon said.

He said Sarkozy would tell Deby friendship between the two
states could grow only if the pace of democracy in Chad sped up.


Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, the model-turned-singer making her
first overseas trip as first lady after marrying the French
president this month, met the wife of missing opposition
coalition leader Saleh at the French embassy in N'Djamena.

Saleh's anti-Deby coalition stepped up pressure on France on
Tuesday, accusing it of overstepping the terms of a military
pact with Chad and of backing Deby "whatever he has done".

Chadian authorities say they detained Choua, 70, as a
"prisoner of war" on Feb. 3 and that he will remain under house
arrest while the inquiry against him continues. They say they
are not holding the two other opposition figures.

"The way he was taken from his home was quite brutal. He was
scared and thought he was going to be executed," Choua's
spokesman Mahamat Allhou Tahir said.

European Union aid commissioner Louis Michel, accompanying
Sarkozy to Chad, planned to meet political parties to help start
political dialogue and revive a deal on democratic reform that
the government and opposition struck in August.

However, opposition representatives angry over the political
situation refused to meet pro-government parties and were to see
Michel and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner at a
separate meeting, opposition officials said.

The European Union is deploying a 3,700-strong force in Chad
to protect several hundred thousand Sudanese and Chadian
refugees living in camps in the dangerous east of the country.

But critics have demanded more action to restore peace.

Date created : 2008-02-27