Chad + 1 more

France, others to propose force for eastern Chad

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PARIS, June 25 (Reuters) - France and other European countries will propose a foreign force for eastern Chad to help secure and rebuild its volatile eastern region, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said on Monday. France has been studying the idea of sending a foreign force to the area, which borders Sudan's violent Darfur region.

Chad's President Idriss Deby appeared to tone down his resistance to the deployment of an international contingent earlier this month.

"We have decided with our friends to help the Chadians in Chad," Kouchner told the closing news conference of an international meeting on Darfur in Paris.

Kouchner said France would seek United Nations approval for a plan to send gendarmes and police to stabilise and help rebuild eastern Chad, where government forces have been fighting rebels. A French diplomat said the plan was to send troops as well.

Faced with large numbers of refugees arriving from Darfur, and struggling to contain violence linked to the Darfur war and a domestic rebellion, Chad has repeatedly called for international assistance to protect refugees in its eastern areas from what it has called Sudanese aggression.

"France, with ... certain European countries and, I hope, the approval of the European Union ... will propose a force that can rebuild or enable reconstruction," Kouchner said.

He said the proposed security force should wear the blue helmets of the United Nations.

Chad has insisted any international force on its own territory should be made up of police and gendarmes, not soldiers.

But asked by journalists earlier this month about the possibility of U.N. blue helmets or European Union troops being deployed, Deby replied: "Why not?".

Kouchner did not give a timeframe for the proposal.

"Unfortunately, it is the rainy season and we will not be able to act much. That means that diplaced people will suffer even more," Kouchner said.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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