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Chad, Sudan Trade Accusations of Backing Rival Rebellions

Chad is threatening to sever diplomatic relations with Sudan after the military says it beat back an assault by rebels based in Sudan. Khartoum denies it is behind that rebellion and says Sudan is ready to fight rebels it says are backed by Chad.

President Idriss Deby says Chad is re-evaluating relations with Sudan after fighting with rebels in eastern Chad late last week. The government says 22 soldiers and 225 rebels were killed in fighting around the eastern city of Abeche.

Chad blames Khartoum for backing the rebel Union of Resistance Forces.

Sudan denies the charge and says it is being attacked by Chadian-backed rebels. The state-run Sudanese News Agency quotes National Defense Minister Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein as saying rebels from the Justice and Equality Movement are active along the country's northwest border with support from the government in Ndjamena.

President Deby is closing all Sudanese cultural centers in Chad and is taking over all Sudanese-run schools. He told an extraordinary cabinet meeting that "if the situation does not evolve positively" relations with Sudan may be ruptured.

The president says Chad is also evaluating its relations with the African Union given what he calls "its inability to find suitable solutions to the Chadian-Sudanese crisis." He told the meeting, which also included political opposition leaders, that Chad should consider withdrawing its confidence in the African Union and hand over the resolution of the crisis to the United Nations.

The U.N. Security Council Friday condemned the rebel attacks in eastern Chad and, without mentioning Sudan by name, expressed its concern over what it called "the external support received by Chadian armed groups."

Chad and Sudan have long accused each other of backing rival rebellions and only resumed diplomatic relations in November after severing them last May. The two countries signed an agreement in Doha last month agreeing to normalize relations and reject support for rebels.

Chadian rebels have been trying to overthrow President Deby for more than three years and briefly reached the capital 15 months ago. Part of the conflict centers on how best to approach the conflict in Sudan's neighboring Darfur region. More than 300,000 refugees from Darfur live in camps in eastern Chad.

A U.N. military force in Chad is only at about 40 percent of its troop strength of more than 5,000. The human-rights group Amnesty International wants donors to step-up their assistance for that force as it says the promise of security for the people of Chad and Darfur remains an illusion.