Monday, March 05, 2007

Chad may consider U.N. police to protect Darfur refugees

CNN March 1, 2007.

N'DJAMENA, Chad (AP) -- Chad's government is voicing opposition to a U.N. plan to deploy troops along its border with Sudan to protect tens of thousands of people who have sought refuge there from the conflict in neighboring Darfur.

The U.N. Security Council is considering sending up to 10,000 troops to Chad, largely because Sudan's government has resisted efforts to send U.N. peacekeepers to the Darfur region itself.

The goal of the mission would be to protect refugees and aid workers, and monitor borders to reduce cross-border attacks.

Djidda Moussa Outman, Chad's minister of foreign affairs, said late Wednesday that Chad had never accepted the idea of a military force of "whatever nature" on its eastern border.

"It was more a question of deploying a civil force made up of police and gendarmes with the aim of protecting the camps of Sudanese refugees, the displaced persons and humanitarian workers in the region," Outman told diplomats representing Security Council members in the Chadian capital, N'djamena.

By "displaced persons," he was referring to the many Chadians who have fled their homes because of an insurgency in the region.

Rebels bent on toppling Chadian President Idriss Deby have clashed sporadically with the government since 2005. They have been able to exploit volatility in Sudan to establish rear bases in Darfur.

Deby expressed concerns about the deployment of a U.N. military force during the Security Council's closed consultations on the issue this week, diplomats at the U.N. said.

Deby is worried about inflaming tensions with Sudan. The two countries have strained relations because Chad supports the Darfur rebellion against the Sudanese government, and Sudan strongly backs the Chadian rebels based in Darfur.

Of the 2.5 million people who have fled Darfur, 230,000 have ended up in refugee camps inside Chad. There are also 90,000 internally displaced Chadians living in camps close to the border.

More than 200,000 people have died since ethnic African tribesmen in Darfur took up arms four years ago, complaining of discrimination by the Arab-dominated Sudanese government.

The U.N. blames the Sudanese government's counterinsurgency for the bulk of the atrocities. Khartoum denies the allegations.

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