For the past six weeks, representatives of Chad's main rebel groups have been in negotiations with Chad government officials to end a conflict that has recently shifted from the northern to the eastern part of the country.  From VOA's bureau in Dakar, Phuong Tran has more on the negotiations, which are being held in Libya.

Amine Ben Barka was once a director of Chad's central bank.  Now he is leader of one of the rebel groups that is negotiating with officials of the Chad government.  Barka says a lack of unity among rebel groups has hurt the rebels' ability to negotiate with the government.  

Barka himself has changed alliances twice within the past year, but he says the rebel leaders realize they must work together if they want political change.

The rebel negotiator says the rebels and government officials exchanged drafts of their positions and demands.  He says so far government officials have refused the rebel demand to name a rebel military leader to the post of prime minister.

Barka says Libyan mediators have suggested the rebels compromise and accept a deputy prime minister position. He says his side is consulting its members before they respond.

Political analyst Alex Vines, with London-based Chatham House, says the outcome of these negotiations is just as important to securing peace in West Africa as pending talks between rebels and government officials in neighboring Sudan.

"The Chadian crisis has been exacerbated by the dynamics of the Darfur conflict, [but] it is important to de-link these now and address each conflict individually," he explained.

Chad shares a border with Sudan and in recent years violence from Sudan's ethnic war has spread into eastern Chad.

The fighting in Darfur has also forced many Sudanese from their homes across the border into Chad.  Hundreds of thousands of them remain in camps in eastern Chad.

But Vines says the conflict in Sudan is not responsible for all the difficutlties in Chad.

"Chad has its own problems, independent of Sudan. There are linkages across the border, but there is a whole dynamic inside Chad itself related to the politics there," he added.

Chad's rebel leaders are strongly critical of President Idriss Deby's government, calling it corrupt and abusive. Chad officials defend their human rights record.

Rebel negotiator Barka says as soon as both sides can agree on a peace accord, the rebel leaders are ready to instruct their members to stop fighting.