Alexa

French president visits embattled Chad

French president visits embattled Chad

French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrived in Chad's capital Wednesday to meet with the president, who thwarted a recent coup attempt with the help of French support.
Sarkozy was expected to press President Idriss Deby to accept an international investigation into an alleged crackdown on political dissidents. Rights groups have charged that a state of emergency declared Feb. 14 has provided cover for the government to terrorize peaceful political opponents.
The one-day trip comes at a pivotal moment for the arid, oil-rich African country, following the rebel attempt to oust Deby earlier this month and as the European Union launches an operation in the east to protect refugees who fled Darfur.
Sarkozy _ who is stopping briefly in Chad on his way to South Africa _ plans to ask Deby to agree to an investigation by a "credible" international commission into the whereabouts of two political opponents who have been missing since the coup attempt earlier this month, presidential spokesman David Martinon said Tuesday in Paris.
Chad has been beset by low-level insurgencies for nearly a decade. In this month's attack, rebels besieged the capital for three days before being beaten back.
Supporters of two opposition leaders _ Ngarlejy Yorongar and Ibni Oumar Mohamat Saleh _ have been missing for weeks since then, and supporters claim they were arrested by Chadian forces. The government has confirmed that it arrested former Chadian President Lol Mahamat Choua as an "enemy combatant." Choua had been held in a military prison, but was recently transferred to house arrest.
"The friendship between our two countries can grow only under the condition that the democratic process restarts and accelerates," France's Martinon said Tuesday.
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 descended the airplane Wednesday accompanied by his new wife, Carla Bruni, making the visit to the African country her first official trip as First Lady.