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French President Nicolas Sarkozy to visit Chad, meet President Idriss Deby

French President Nicolas Sarkozy to visit Chad, meet President Idriss Deby

French President Nicolas Sarkozy will visit embattled Chad on Wednesday, asking the leader of this former colony to agree to an investigation of the disappearance of two opponents and pressing for an end to political strife.
"The friendship between our two countries can grow only under the condition that the democratic process restarts and accelerates," the French presidential spokesman, David Martinon, said Tuesday in Paris.
The Chadian government's Web site initially announced the visit in a statement that then disappeared. Sarkozy's office later confirmed the one-day trip, which comes at a pivotal moment, after a brief rebel insurgency aimed at ousting Chadian President Idriss Deby and as the European Union launches an operation in the east to protect refugees who fled Darfur.
Arid, oil-rich Chad has been beset by low-level insurgencies for nearly a decade. Earlier this month, rebels besieged the capital of the West African country for three days before government forces drove them back.
French forces in Chad helped evacuate foreigners during the crisis and gave logistical support to the government, including transporting munitions from Libya. France even said it was prepared to intervene directly if necessary.
Thousands fled N'Djamena, the capital, during the fighting and the country has been under a state of emergency since Feb. 15.
Sarkozy could also bring up the issue of a pardon for six French citizens convicted of kidnapping in Chad in a bid to spirit to France 103 children alleged to have been orphans from the Darfur region of neighboring Sudan. However, Sarkozy's spokesman refused to comment.
France's government has been critical of reports of the detention of peaceful political opposition figures in the wake of the coup attempt.
Sarkozy is expected to ask Deby to agree to a probe by a "credible" international commission into the whereabouts of two political opponents, Ngarlejy Yorongar and Ibni Oumar Mohamat Saleh, his spokesman said.
The two disappeared a month ago and lawyers representing them asked Sarkozy on Tuesday to seek "precise" information from Deby on their whereabouts. Amnesty International has accused Deby's government of a witch hunt for opposition figures while a state of emergency, decreed Feb. 14, is in place.
France is playing a key role in a planned 3,700-strong peacekeeping force, known as EUFOR to protect refugees from Darfur and others caught up in the turmoil along Sudan's borders with Chad and the Central African Republic.
Sarkozy was already scheduled to visit South Africa Thursday and Friday. South African officials said his new wife Carla Bruni is to accompany Sarkozy on the trip. However, Martinon, the president's spokesman, said that nothing had been decided by Tuesday night as to Bruni's presence.
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Associated Press correspondent Christine Ollivier in Paris contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-04-11 20:30 GMT+08:00