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Chad's Leader Calls for Bigger International Role in Darfur

Chad's president, Idriss Deby, is calling on the international community to play a greater role in resolving the continuing violence in Sudan's Darfur region and to increase security for the 200,000 Sudanese refugees living in the deserts of eastern Chad.

Since the Chadian capital, N'Djamena, came under attack by rebels last week, President Idriss Deby has on several occasions blamed Sudan for backing the rebels.

In an interview with VOA Tuesday, President Deby even refused to call them rebels. They are mercenaries, he said, from his ruling party headquarters in N'Djamena. He said they are paid by Sudan, trained in Sudan, and ordered by the Khartoum government to invade Chad.

While President Deby looks to Sudan as the source of the crisis, many in the capital say the country's problem has more to do with domestic unrest. For one thing, Chad's opposition parties are boycotting the presidential elections scheduled for May 3.

Speaking through a translator, President Deby responded to critics who say he is using Sudan's role to gloss over Chad's domestic woes, including the growing internal unrest brought on by persistent poverty, the lack of democracy, and the alleged corruption and mismanagement of Chad's oil wealth.

"How can I use that infirm day when the capital was attacked by Sudanese mercenaries?" he said. How can I use this to hide my internal problems?"

President Deby has backed off on threats to expel refugees from Sudan, but has said that he could no longer guarantee their safety. He says he does not have the forces to fend off an invasion by Sudan-backed mercenaries and at the same time provide adequate security for the more than 200-thousand refugees in eastern Chad.

President Deby wants the international community, especially the United States, to play a more active role in resolving the crisis in Darfur, which besides spilling into Chad is also affecting the Central African Republic.

"In February and April I wrote personally to President Bush and my message [now] is the same: the superpower should intervene," he said.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir says his country has "no interest" in instability in neighboring Chad. But many observers in the region believe Sudan is playing a role in Chad's unrest. They point out that President Deby came to power in a 1990 coup, at the head of a rebel army backed by Sudan.