Home | News    Thursday 14 February 2008

EU froce to protect Darfur refugees pledges to Avoid Chad conflict

February 13, 2008 (NDJAMENA) — The head of an E.U. peacekeeping force deploying to protect Darfur refugees pledged Wednesday that troops wouldn’t become embroiled in the conflict between Chad’s government and rebels.

The European Union resumed deployment Tuesday of the peacekeeping force to Chad and the Central African Republic, after suspending it at the start of the month when rebels stormed the capital Ndjamena.

"The framework of the operation has not changed, nor have the objectives," said French General Jean-Philippe Ganascia, local head of the European peacekeeping force, which is expected to include 3,700 troops.

He added: "Our mandate is to protect civilians."

But their job may have been made more difficult by alleged support given to Chad’s government by French troops deployed in the central African nation as part of a separate mission there.

The French defense ministry has said no French soldiers or special forces were involved in fighting between Chadian rebels and government forces, but rebels dispute the claim.

Rebel spokesman Abderaman Koulamallah has said France had "needlessly put the lives of its own nationals in danger" by allowing its troops to support President Idriss Deby Itno.

Most of the troops in the E.U. force will be provided by France, and peacekeepers will be based in eastern areas in Chad close to Sudan’s border, near where rebels have been known to operate. Chad has long claimed the rebels are backed by Sudan.

(AFP)