Chad rebels say French EU peacekeepers 'not neutral'
12.02.08 @ 09:30
Chad's rebels have warned the EU not to send peacekeepers to the country, fearing the troops will not be neutral in the dispute between them and General Idriss Deby, the country's ruler.
The rebel alliance issued a statement on Monday (11 February) from Gabon saying they do not trust a force composed mainly of French troops, the former colonial master. They believe the troops will be there to support the Deby government.
European commanders say they are to remain neutral and are only there to ensure the safety of refugees displaced from Sudan's Darfur region and due to other regional conflicts.
Deployment of a European peacekeeping force, EUFOR-Chad-CAR, was delayed at the start of February when rebels made a lightning advance on the capital, N'Djamena.
However, the N'Djamena airport reopened on Monday, permitting deployment of the 3,700-strong EU force.
A spokesperson for the force said that if the airport allowed EUFOR-Chad-CAR's cargo planes to land, the deployment could resume today (12 February), according to an AFP report.
During the rebel advance, French troops on the ground offered medical and logistical support to government forces.
France has denied reports in their domestic press that French special forces have already engaged in combat with rebels.
French daily La Croix reported that Deby's forces pushed rebels back from the capital with help from members of the French special operations command.
Responding to the reports, French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner said: "There was no involvement of the French special forces - not by Thursday night, in any case," according to Reuters.
Meanwhile, the 400 Irish troops that are taking part in the deployment have been told they will be viewed as a hostile force if they arrive along with the French troops. The rebels have called on Ireland to pull out of the EU force, according to the Irish Times.
"If EUFOR is made up of forces other than French, we don't have a problem with it," a rebel spokesperson said, the Irish daily reports.