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Chad's Ex-President to Remain in Senegal Pending AU Decision

Senegal has said Chad's former President Hissene Habre will remain in the country, pending a decision by the African Union. The deposed leader is being sought by a Belgian court for human rights abuses, but Senegal said last week it would refer the case to the African body.

Senegal's Foreign Minister Cheikh Tidiane Gadio said Sunday his country would not hand former Chadian President Hissene Habre over to the African Union just yet.

Mr. Habre was briefly held in custody Friday, after the interior ministry issued a statement saying a decision on his fate would be referred to the AU presidency.

Mr. Gadio said the Habre case concerns not only Senegal, but Africa as a whole.

But he said the matter would be taken up at the next AU summit set for January, and in the meantime Mr. Habre would remain in Senegal. He assured Mr. Habre's alleged victims that Senegal would not permit the deposed leader to avoid facing justice.

Mr. Habre is accused of tens of thousands of political murders, widespread torture, and persecuting ethnic groups. A court in Belgium is seeking his extradition to face charges of human-rights abuses allegedly committed during his eight years in power.

Mr. Habre has lived in exile in Senegal since fleeing Chad 15 years ago.

He has stated he had no knowledge of any of the abuses committed during his rule.

A member of his defense team, Doudou N'doye has called the decision to put the case before the African Union illegal.

He argues that, under Senegalese law, only a judge and official commission can revoke the status of a refugee residing in Senegal.

Mr. N'doye says the interior ministry has no jurisdiction in the case.

Sudan is to take over the A.U. rotating presidency at the summit January 23 and 24 in Sudan's capital, Khartoum.