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Sudan reiterates denial of backing Chad rebels

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February 4, 2008 (KHARTOUM) — Sudan on Monday again denied backing rebels who stormed into Ndjamena, Chad, in a bid to oust President Idriss Deby, instead accusing Chad of interfering in its affairs ahead of U.N. talks on the crisis.

"What’s happening in Chad is an internal matter and Sudan has nothing to do with it," Sudan armed forces spokesman Othman Mohammed al-Agbash said, repeating a denial made Sunday amid heavy fighting in the Chadian capital.

The Chadian government says it has quashed the rebellion, and accused Sudanese helicopters and Antonov military aircraft of helping a rebel attack on the eastern town of Adre near the border with Darfur.

"Reports of Sudanese aviation taking part in certain offensive operations are groundless and there’s nothing to prove them," Agbash said.

The U.S. said Monday it had warned Khartoum to stop any support it might be giving to rebels in Chad.

"We’ve gone directly to very high levels of the Sudanese government to say that if there is any support from the Sudanese government to these rebels, that should end immediately," U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

The message was made from the "highest level" of the U.S. embassy in Khartoum to the Sudanese presidency and the foreign ministry, he told reporters in Washington.

Sporadic automatic gunfire was heard in the Chadian capital Monday morning in the wake of rebel offensives on Saturday and Sunday.

The Chadian government said the rebels had been routed, while the insurgents told civilians to quit the city ahead of a new offensive.

Chadian Foreign Minister Amad Allam-Mi told France’s RTI radio that Sudan had masterminded the rebel offensive in a bid to install its own Sudan-friendly administration in Ndjamena and "to close the window on the crisis in Darfur."

He also threatened future incursions into Sudan to pursue the rebels.

"Sudan has sent these attackers more than 700 kilometers to destroy our capital," he said. "If it is necessary for the security of Chad and for the defense of its integrity, we will go to Sudan."

Each side accuses the other of backing rebels based across their common border.

Already fraught relations between the two neighbors have been pushed to the limit by Chadian air attacks on positions in Darfur, where it says Chadian rebels are hiding out, to which Khartoum has promised to respond.

Mustafa Osman Ismail, an advisor to President Omar al-Beshir, said that what " interests Sudan is for the Chadian government, whatever it is, to stop interfering in our internal affairs."

He said Khartoum hoped for a return to peace and stability in Chad and that Ndjamena "stops trying to destabilize Sudan."

The U.N. Security Council Monday unanimously condemned the rebel attacks in Chad and urged member states to back the Ndjamena government as the insurgents threatened a new offensive.

(AFP)

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