The United Nations Security Council has issued a statement expressing its grave concern over rebel groups' efforts to overthrow the government of Chad. VOA's Margaret Besheer reports from U.N. headquarters in New York that the statement leaves the door open for member states to send military assistance to Chadian President Idriss Deby.

Panamanian Ambassador Ricardo Alberto Arias, the Council's president this month, read the statement condemning the rebel attacks on the government and demanding an immediate end to the violence.

"The Security Council calls upon Member States to provide support in conformity with the U.N. Charter as requested by the government of Chad," said Arias.

According to news reports, thousands of people fled Chad's capital as government forces and rebels clashed for a third day on Monday. Gunfire and shelling were heard throughout the city.

Chad's U.N. representative sent a letter to the Security Council on Sunday requesting member states to provide aid and assistance in ending the rebellion.

France's U.N. Ambassador, Jean-Maurice Ripert, said the statement calls on member states to provide assistance to the "legal government" of President Deby, but would not say whether France - the former colonial power in Chad -- would provide military help.

"I guess there will be some request from the government of Chad addressed to some member states or to all member states of the U.N. and we will see," said Ripert. "What is important is that the Security Council allows the member states to do so and to answer the request for help and assistance of Chad."

France has some 1,500 troops in Chad, but Ambassador Ripert says they are not involved in any military activity.

Sunday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for an immediate end to the fighting. In a statement, a spokesman said Mr. Ban is "profoundly alarmed by the dangerous situation in Chad," particularly in the capital. He expressed concern at the deterioration of the humanitarian situation and the displacement of several hundred thousand people.