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Sudan-Chad Tensions Escalate

Tensions between Khartoum and Ndjamena took a dramatic turn after Sudan Threatened Wednesday to destroy Chadian forces if they invade its territory. The latest war of words between the two neighboring countries undermines the recently signed reconciliation agreement brokered in Doha.

Chad said Khartoum backed a rebel attack earlier this month, shortly after the two countries signed the agreement in the Qatar capital, Doha a charge Sudan denies. Khartoum and Ndjamena have frequently accused each other of supporting rebels in each other's country.

Fouad Hikmat is an analyst for the International Crisis Group. He told VOA Ndjamena is taking advantage of the indictment of the Sudanese president.

"I think after the last period and especially after the ICC (International Criminal Court), the situation started to deteriorate dramatically in Sudan. The situation remains very fragile," Hikmat said.

He said it was unlikely the war of words between the two countries would degenerate into a problem that would destabilize the sub-region.

"I don't think at the moment there might be a serious escalation of which the Chadian government continues actually pursuing the rebel groups inside Sudan," he said.

Hikmat said Khartoum has acted with restraint despite incursion by Chadian soldiers into Sudan territory.

"For the moment the Sudanese government didn't retaliate and at the same time the Chadian government said that they have lost trust in the African Union and they are going to ask the UN to intervene to try to resolve the problem them and the Sudanese," Hikmat said.

He said Khartoum seems not to be interested to come under international spot light after embattled President Umar Hassan Al Bashir was indicted by the Hague based International Criminal Court over alleged crimes against humanity in Darfur.

"Definitely at this moment the Sudanese government doesn't want the issue of Darfur and this to be more internationalized," he said.

Hikmat said it was unlikely Khartoum would engage in confrontation with neighboring Chad.

"At this moment, Sudan might not retaliate so that it might not attract more of an international response, to try to disconnect the situation. And I think the Chadians took that window of opportunity to pursue the situation. They gambled, and I think they gambled well," Hikmat said.

He said Khartoum's support for rebels fighting government forces in Chad has been common knowledge.

"Actually everybody knows that the Sudanese government has been supporting and hosting the Chadian rebels, they had their attempts I think more than two times towards Ndjamena and they failed," he said.

Hikmat said similarly Ndjamena has been supporting Darfur rebels who have been fighting Sudanese government forces in the Darfur region.

"Everybody knows the connection with Chad and its support with supporting the Darfur rebels and we know that also they tried to reach Khartoum to reach Omdurman and now it is taking cities, so, this is not a new situation," Hikmat said.

He said Ndjamena has admitted entering into Sudan's territory to hunt down Chadian rebels.

"The new part of it which is very significant is that the Chadians this time pursued the rebels inside the Sudanese territory and with air raids and with troops. And they are very clear about it and are open about it," he said.

Hikmat said the recently signed deal in Qatar's capital, Doha was a confidence building measure aimed to resolving tensions between the two countries.

"I think the deal which was brokered by the Libyans and the Qataris between Sudan and Chad was basically to try and build a trust between these countries to build up confidence between them," Hikmat said.

He said the peace deal was also aimed to open negotiations between the two countries.

"To try to mobilize the two nations so that they are able to have dialogue and they are engaged with each other because without engagement without dialogue you won't be able to find the solution to the problem," he said.

Khartoum says N'Djamena arms and supports the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), one of two main Darfur rebel groups that launched a rebellion against the Sudanese government in 2003.

Meanwhile, Chad admitted over the weekend launching air attacks inside Sudan in a bid to wipe out rebel camps. It said the raids had destroyed seven groups of fighters and that its ground forces had captured 100 prisoners on the border before they pulled back. But Khartoum described as an act of war last week's bombing raids on its territory.

Some political observers say tensions between the two neighbors escalated after the United Nations said they had initial reports which suggested that Sudanese army planes bombed land close to the Chad border in north Darfur which has seen recent clashes between Khartoum and Darfur rebels, including JEM.