French defence minister: no 'direct combat' in Chad
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In an exclusive interview with FRANCE 24, French Defence Minister Hervé Morin reiterated his previous claim that France had officially requested explanations from Chad on the situation of the arrested dissidents.
During the recent fighting in the Chadian capital of Ndjamena, France provided material and logistical support, but did not participate directly in defending the government of President Idriss Deby, French Defence Minister Herve Morin said Thursday.
In an exclusive interview with FRANCE 24, Morin reaffirmed that France did not "participate directly in combat" in Chad.
"We did not participate militarily, directly in combat, except to ensure our own defence or the safety of the nationals that we evacuated."
Rebel forces attacked the capital in an attempt to overthrow President Deby, who himself assumed power via a military coup, during a three-day siege in early February that left more than 160 people dead.
In a presidential decree issued on Thursday, Deby declared a nationwide state of emergency. "The state of emergency will be put into place on February 15 from midnight on all the territory of the Republic of Chad," the decree said.
The emergency declaration followed accusations by Chad's main opposition party over the disappearances of three opposition figures. Opposition leaders claim the three men were brutally arrested by the country's presidential guard before they wen missing.
At the time of the rebel attack, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and several of his ministers voiced unequivocal support for the Deby regime - a position criticised for calling into question the neutrality of the European peacekeeping force being deployed in the region.
Morin pointed out that President Deby was subsequently reelected in elections "that the international community certified ... took place in a democratic fashion."
France, which counted Chad among its many colonies until independence in 1960, keeps 1450 troops and several attack aircraft in the country.
"We had to protect the airport...," where French troops were overseeing the evacuation of hundreds of foreign nationals, Morin said.
"Of course we responded every time we felt that the control of the airport might be at risk, but it was never an offensive action on our behalf. ... France fulfilled its obligation, which is a technical military cooperation agreement whereby we provide back-up, logistics, healthcare," Morin said.
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