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Chad Reaches Peace Agreement With Rebels Ending Three Year War - 2002-01-08

The government of Chad has signed a peace agreement to end a three-year insurgency. The agreement was reached after three-days of negotiations in the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

The agreement aims to end a conflict that has pitted the government of Chadian President Idriss Deby and rebels who have been battling government forces in Chad's northern Tibesti region near the border with Libya.

The rebels belong to a group known as the Movement for Democracy and Justice in Chad. They are led by Youssouf Togoimi, who was sacked as Defense Minister in 1997.

The insurgents had been steadfast in their refusal to negotiate with the Deby government, saying they would not engage in any dialogue as long as Mr. Deby remained in office. The rebels accused the Deby administration of being authoritarian and corrupt

The Chadian leader took power by force in 1990 with the help of Libya. He was reelected last May in elections that were marred by accusations of fraud.

The peace negotiations that led to the signing of the agreement were mediated by Libya, which has maintained a strong role in Chadian affairs during the past two decades.

The two countries fought a war in the 1980's in which Libya tried to annex part of northern Chad. Libya has remained influential in Chad, providing significant financial support to the Deby government.

The agreement signed on Monday outlines eight basic points. It calls for an immediate ceasefire between rebels and government forces. It says both sides must release all prisoners taken during the various skirmishes.

The agreement also says the Chadian government must allow former rebels to reintegrate into the military as well as take up government posts. The fighting in northern Chad during the past three-years has put a significant strain on the country's economy. Officials hope the new peace accord will help bring about prosperity.

With a population of eight million people, Chad is among the world's poorest nations. The World Bank estimates the average Chadian lives on less than one dollar a day.

Plans have been on hold to exploit oil reserves in the south of the country. The government hopes the peace accord will provide the stability needed to carry out projects including the construction of a proposed 1,000 kilometer oil pipeline from Doba, in the south of the country, to a seaport in neighboring Cameroon.