AFP - The UN Security Council on Friday unanimously condemned the ongoing military incursion in eastern Chad by Chadian rebels who came from across the Sudanese border.
All 15 ambassadors endorsed a non-binding, French-drafted statement that "condemns the renewed military incursions in eastern Chad of Chadian armed groups, coming from outside," meaning neighboring Sudan.
Their statement expressed "concern at the external support received by Chadian armed groups, as reported by (UN) Secretary General (Ban Ki-moon)."
It stressed that "any attempt at destabilization of Chad by force is unacceptable" and demanded that "rebel armed groups cease violence immediately and calls on all parties to reengage in dialogue" in the framework of an inter-Chadian peace deal reached in Libya in October 2007.
The council began its meeting earlier in the day at the request of Chad's UN ambassador Ahmad Allam-Mi, who accused Khartoum of "aggression" aimed at toppling the Ndjamena government only days after the two neighbors signed a reconciliation accord in the Qatari capital Doha.
Khartoum has "equipped and trained a subversive force on a tribal basis, whose only goal is to overthrow the legitimate government in Chad," he told the council.
"The Security Council must openly condemn the (Sudanese) regime for its repeated attacks on my country."
Earlier Friday, Chadian government forces fought desert battles against the rebels stepping up an offensive against President Idriss Deby, with at least 247 reported dead in two days of conflict.
The fighting, centered on the eastern town of Am-Dam, has heightened concerns among United Nations agencies and aid groups caring for about 450,000 refugees from Sudan and the Central African Republic.
Confirming new clashes, Chadian Communications Minister Mahamat Hissene said 225 rebels had been killed, with another 212 taken prisoner, 127 of their vehicles seized and 93 destroyed.
On the government side, 22 soldiers were killed and 31 wounded, he said.
The army on Thursday said 125 rebels and 21 soldiers had been killed in clashes at Deressa, half-way between Am-Dam and Abeche, the main city in eastern Chad.
The Security Council statement meanwhile also appealed to Sudan and Chad to "respect and fully implement their mutual commitments" in peace deals reached in Doha on May 3 and in Dakar on March 13, 2008.
And it expressed "deep concern at the direct threat the activity of armed groups poses for the safety of the civilian population and the conduct of humanitarian operations."
Dmitry Titov, a senior official at the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, earlier briefed the council ambassadors, citing cited UN reports on Tuesday of three main rebel columns observed in Darfur, including two that later moved into eastern Chad.
"The third remained in static position across the border in Darfur, west of El Geneina," he said, citing the reports. "Reports on the actual sizes of the columns vary, but each column is believed to number anywhere between 50 and 100 vehicles."
Sudan's UN ambassador Abdalmahmud Abdalhaleem Mohamad took a swipe at France, Chad's main backer and former colonial ruler.
"We're fed up with those statements written at the French (UN) mission and sent in the name of Chad to the Security Council," he said, referring to Chad's request for the Security Council meeting. "We know it very well ... They (the French) wrote it."
France, which has troops in Chad, has been anxiously watching events. The European Union and African Union have both condemned the Chadian rebel offensive.
Chad has bombed the rebels from planes and helicopters since they crossed the Sudanese border Monday.
Ndjamena accuses Sudan of backing the Union of Resistance Forces (UFR) rebels, who have vowed to take the capital Ndjamena.
"Whenever Chad is planning something, they come to the Security Council to cover up and camouflage their support for JEM," the most active rebel group in the Sudanese western region of Darfur, Mohamad said.
"What is happening in Chad is an internal affair," he added, asserting that the Chadian allegations against Khartoum were made "to cover its domestic failures."
Peace between Chad and Sudan is regarded as key for any lasting settlement to the six-year-old conflict in Darfur.
In February 2008, Chadian rebels battled their way to the gates of the presidential palace in Ndjamena before being beaten back.