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Chad denies arming Darfur rebels

Jan 12, 2006 (N’DJAMENA) — Chad denied on Thursday reports it was supplying arms to rebels in Sudan’s turbulent Darfur region and said the charges were being used to justify attacks against its own territory which it blames on Khartoum.

Chad’s camel guards patrol on the Sudan-Chad border in Abulu Kore (Darfur), Eastern Chad in 2004.

President Idriss Deby’s government, which accuses Sudan of backing insurgents fighting to topple him, was responding to a recent report by U.N. experts that said rebels in Darfur are receiving arms and ammunition from neighbouring countries.

The U.N. report, which was obtained by Reuters on Tuesday, did not accuse Deby’s government directly but cited reports of rebels getting "financial, political and other material support from neighbouring countries including Libya, Chad and Eritrea".

Chad’s Information Minister Hourmadji Moussa Doumgor said his government was not involved in any way in the war which has raged in Darfur since 2003 pitting Sudanese government forces and militias against rebels. Tens of thousands of people have been killed and 2 million have been forced from their homes.

"This lying information attributed to a supposed report by United Nations experts has no other aim than to justify the Sudanese aggression which Chad is a victim of," Doumgor said in a statement posted on the Chad government’s official Web site.

Chad is embroiled in a diplomatic slanging match with its neighbour Sudan after accusing the government in Khartoum of backing attacks by anti-Deby Chadian rebels and army deserters against the eastern border town of Adre on Dec. 18.

Deby has declared a "state of belligerency" with Sudan and has been lobbying the African Union — unsuccessfully so far — to change the venue of its upcoming summit of heads of state in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on Jan 23-24.

Doumgor said that Chad, far from stoking the Darfur conflict, had suffered "the massive influx of Sudanese refugees into its territory and incursions by Sudanese militia who sow terror and insecurity among Chad’s frontier populations".

Chad says more than 600 of its civilians have died in these cross-border raids since 2003 and more than 300,000 Sudanese refugees are sheltering on its territory.

"SOVEREIGNTY NOT NEGOTIABLE"

As well as his dispute with Sudan, Deby is also under fire from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund for scrapping an oil revenue law to allow his government faster and easier access to petroleum funds.

Chad’s parliament passed the reform on Dec. 29, prompting the World Bank to suspend loans to the poor and largely arid central African country.

Despite telephone calls from World Bank chief Paul Wolfowitz, Deby this week gave final approval to the reform, which abolished a special overseas oil fund saving 10 percent of revenues to be used to fight long-term poverty.

Chad’s government shrugged off the international criticism.

"This is about national dignity and sovereignty which are in no way negotiable," Dougmor said.

He said the government would take up the challenge posed by the World Bank move by seeking to improve management of the country’s resources.

Chad was last year ranked the most corrupt country in a Transparency International survey of 159 states.

Analysts say the deteriorating security situation in Chad, both on its eastern frontier and inside the ranks of Deby’s own fractious armed forces, may have prompted him to make the contested reform to access more oil funds for defence spending.

(Reuters)