French President Visits Chad as Rights Groups Urge Pressure on Chadian Leader

Lisa Bryant

French President Nicolas Sarkozy visits Chad as rights groups urge France not to "cover up" for President Idriss Deby, accused of having a hand in the disappearance of opposition members. Lisa Bryant has more on the visit from Paris.

President Sarkozy is expected to call on Chad's leader, Idriss Deby, to form a commission to look into the disappearances of two leading members of opposition parties, who disappeared during a rebel attack on Chad's capital N'djamena earlier this month. He is also expected to urge Mr. Deby to restart a dialogue with the political opposition.

Several leading human rights groups charge that the Chadian government was responsible for the disappearances of the two opposition members.

Olivier Bercault, a member of Human Rights Watch, told France-Info radio there was no doubt the abductors were members of the Chadian army. Human Rights Watch previously urged Mr. Sarkozy not to visit Chad unless the the opposition politicians were released.

But the French media suggest Paris wants to remain engaged with Chad, France's former colony. Mr. Sarkozy is also expected to make a case for the 3,700-man European peacekeeping force that is being deployed to Chad and the Central African Republic to protect displaced people and refugees from the nearby Sudanese region of Darfur. He may also urge Mr. Deby to pardon French charity members serving a prison sentence in France on charges of trying to abduct African children from Chad.

Mr. Sarkozy then flies to South Africa for talks with President Thabo Mbeki.

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