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Chad Rebels Face Attacks, Warn of Wider War

Rebels in Chad say their positions near the border with Sudan are being bombarded, and the attacks could derail talks aimed at ending the low-level conflict which threatens to engulf Central Africa in a wider war. VOA's Nico Colombant reports from our regional bureau in Dakar.

A Chadian rebel spokesman says positions near the towns of Ade and Adre have been bombed in recent days, causing heavy casualties.

Makaila Nguebla says these attacks show the government's bad faith in talks that were recently begun outside Chad to end the low-level conflict.

The government did not immediately comment on their new offensive. It follows new rebel activity in a region bordering both Sudan and Libya.

The rebel spokesman adds the international community should make sure Chadians can resolve their differences internally.

He warns current conflicts could spread from Sudan's Darfur region, through the Central African Republic and Chad, and farther south to the two Congos.

U.N. officials are studying a possible peacekeeping mission in region's bordering Sudan's warring Darfur region.

British-based Global Insight analyst Adrien Feniou says the government's tactic has been to try to crush the rebels before engaging in serious dialogue.

He said, "I do not think the Chadian government is going to be willing to discuss with rebels in a position of weakness, hence the whole point of the counter-offensives."

Another British-based analyst, Alex Vines, with the Royal Institute of International Affairs, says the rebels are trying to weaken Chad's army, with persistent and repeated attacks, including possible movement toward the capital.

"I think it is to try to speed the government of Chad's response so as to kind of weaken it," he said. "I would imagine that they will at some point make another attempt so they may try another launch close to N'Djamena at some point. This is all part of a longer term strategy to get regime change in Chad."

Vines says even though there is new rebel activity near Libya, he does not believe Libya's government is becoming involved in Chad's conflict.

"I would be surprised given Libya's current policy of rapprochement with the West that it might want to be involved with the rebels. There is clearly more evidence about Sudanese support for them, but it is a worried situation in Chad," said Vines.

Both Sudan's government and the Chadian rebels deny there is any link between them.

Chad's President Idriss Deby came to power in a coup in 1990. He changed the constitution to lift a limit on presidential terms and recently won elections, widely viewed as rigged. Human-rights activists have complained of his repression of freedom of speech and misuse of oil wealth.

Mr. Deby has said he is preventing Islamic extremists from pushing further into Africa. He has received help from French military to attack Chadian rebels.