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Monday, October 01, 2007

Gaddafi Continues Peace Negotiations in Benin

N'DJAMENA, Oct 1 (Reuters) - A small Arab rebel group in Chad signed a peace deal with the government on Monday after negotiations in Libya, giving a boost to President Idriss Deby before European troops deploy in the country's volatile east.

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is sponsoring peace talks between governments and rebels from neighbours Chad and Sudan, as well as Central African Republic to the south.

In arid eastern Chad, where refugees and violence have spilled over the border from a four-year-old war in Sudan's Darfur region, local Chadian rebel groups have waged a cat-and-mouse rebellion against Deby and his forces since hundreds of government troops defected in 2005.

The group which signed Monday's deal, the Chadian Democratic Revolutionary Council (CDRT), was a mainly Arab group led by Ali Ahmat Ackhbach and numbering between 300 and 1,000 fighters, according to different estimates from sources in the region.

  • Under the deal which Ackhbach signed, Deby's government and the CDRT agreed to "work for the cessation of violence between different communities in the east of the country in order to ensure stability and state authority there"

While Monday's deal does not remove the military threat to Deby from the east, it gives some relief to his government ahead of the dry season, when fighting is most intense, and before the planned deployment of a European Union force in eastern Chad.

The force is being assembled to protect civilians and aid operations in Chad and northeastern Central African Republic, complementing a bigger hybrid U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force approved for deployment in Darfur.

As fighting has raged across the border in western Sudan, ethnic violence has also increased in Chad's east, mirroring aspects of the Darfur conflict in which mounted Arabs and other nomadic tribes have clashed with sedentary African farming communities.

  • Under the N'Djamena accord, military and civilian members of the CDRT benefit from an amnesty, its fighters are to go through an army-organised disarmament process, and the organisation will be involved in "the management of state at all levels".
In August, Deby and opposition parties calmed simmering political tensions by agreeing to form an independent electoral commission to hold delayed parliamentary polls by late 2009.

The CDRT was previously part of a loose armed rebel coalition called the Union of Forces For Democracy and Development (UFDD), various members of which sent representatives to peace talks in Libya in recent months.

The peace deal leaves the remaining UFDD groups dominated by the Gorane ethnic clan of prominent rebel leader Mahamat Nouri and of exiled former President Hissene Habre, who was overthrown in 1980 by Deby, a scion of the rival Zaghawa community.

Negotiations continue in Tripoli with factions led by Nouri and fellow rebel Timan Erdimi, while a government delegation has gone to meet representatives of armed groups exiled in the West African state of Benin,

a source familiar with the talks said.

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