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Chad Rebels Warn France 'Not to Intervene'


While France is stepping up its support of Chad's government following a failed rebel attack on N'Djamena, rebels say they are not dissuaded. They say they have withdrawn to the outskirts of the capital and are warning against intervention by the former colonial power. Kari Barber reports from VOA's West and Central Africa bureau in Dakar.

France's defense minister, Herve Morin, made a surprise stop in Chad's capital, just one day after President Nicolas Sarkozy told reporters that France was prepared to "do what needs to be done" to protect Chad's government.

Speaking publicly for the first time since rebels tried to unseat him, Chad's President Idriss Deby tried to quell rumors of loss of power. He told reporters that his government was in control of the entire country Wednesday.

France has more than 1,000 troops in Chad. Most are based there permanently on the basis of a military accord.

French Defense Minister Morin says French military aircraft have been patrolling the border with Sudan since earlier this week to monitor armed incursions from outside Chad.

Last week in N'Djamena, Chadian forces fought two days of battles against rebels who want President Idriss Deby out of power. The number of dead is still uncertain, but hundreds were wounded and tens of thousands of refugees fled into neighboring Cameroon and Nigeria.

The U.N. Security Council condemned the attacks and called for member states to support Mr. Deby's government.

Exiled Chadian rebel spokesman Makaila Nguebla says if the French meddle militarily, the rebels will no longer make a distinction between Chadian and French soldiers.

Nguebla says attacks could resume in the next couple of days.

Nguebla says rebels are 30 kilometers outside the city planning their strategy. The government says rebels have been crushed, and that their fighters are fleeing in every direction.

Meanwhile, Arnaud Royer, a London-based Chad expert for Amnesty International, says there are concerns the Chadian government may be committing human rights abuses in the midst of the conflict. Royer says at least four opposition leaders have turned up missing since the fighting began.

He says rights groups are asking the French government to use their influence to help.

"The government and some authorities say they will consider it, but consider is not enough at this point," Royer said. "They should definitely go beyond considering this issue. They should go talk to the Chadian authorities and say that it should be key that the people should be either charged if they say the committed a crime or unconditionally released."

Chad's rebels say they want to replace President Idriss Deby, who they say is corrupt and abusive, with a democratic government. Mr. Deby says the rebels are backed by Sudan, a charge Sudanese officials deny.

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