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    France Urging Political Dialogue in Chad

    Lisa Bryant

    Two senior French officials flew to Chad to convince President Idriss Deby to open a dialogue with leaders of the political opposition. Mr. Deby is also facing pressure from the opposition at home and tension with Sudan.

    A French official contacted by VOA in Paris said the purpose of the diplomatic visit was to strongly insist that President Deby renew dialogue with the country's legal opposition. That message will be delivered to President Deby by French Cooperation Minister Brigitte Girardin and senior French official Michel de Bonnecorse, known in the government as Mr. Africa.

    France still retains considerable influence in Chad, its former colony, and experts suggest Mr. Deby will be listening to what the French officials have to say. Chad's President won a third term in office earlier this year, in elections that were boycotted by opposition parties.

    But Mareille Debos, an expert on Chad at the Institute for Political Studies in Paris, says Chadian opposition groups may have little interest in dialoguing with Mr. Deby.

    Debos says opposition parties will likely be wary of any overtures by the government. Nor are they likely to participate in any future national unity government that lacks credibility.

    France has been criticized for supporting President Deby during his 15 years in power. Experts like Debos say the French government views Mr. Deby as offering stability in the oil-rich country where France has a strategic military base. But Chad is not a stable nation.

    Chad has cut ties with Sudan for allegedly supporting rebels who launched an April attack on the country's capital, N'Djamena. Chad's relations with neighboring Central African Republic are also rocky. Sudan accuses Chad of supporting rebels in its war-torn Darfur region.

    And during a visit to Paris this week, Sudanese Foreign Minister Lam Akol accused Chad of failing to respect an agreement stuck in February to ease tensions between the two countries.

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