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Negotiations Under Way for Peacekeeper Deployment, East Chad, CAR

17 August 2007

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is urging the U.N. Security Council to approve a new peacekeeping force for the volatile border region between Chad and Central African Republic. The newly revised proposal would address the concerns of Chadian President Idriss Deby, who opposed Mr. Ban's original proposal for deployment of a U.N. military force. Phuong Tran brings us this report from VOA's West African Bureau in Dakar.

Under the new proposal, a unit of Chad's police force would maintain law and order in refugee camps, key towns and areas that have large numbers of displaced civilians in eastern Chad.

U.N. staff would mostly offer support from the capital, N'Djamena, rather than be posted on the ground in eastern Chad.

The European Union would provide military forces, most likely to come from France, to serve with Chad forces on the border, for a period of at least one year.

Chad originally had rejected having U.N. peacekeepers on the border, saying it preferred to have its own security forces watch over the camps. But last month, President Idriss Deby agreed to an EU peacekeeping force.

Mr. Ban said the main cause of insecurity is not clashes between government troops and rebel forces, which have occurred only sporadically in recent months, but "widespread criminality and banditry and an associated breakdown in law and order."

The U.N.'s top official in Chad, Kingsley Amaning, says while leaders negotiate, the security of about 400,000 refugees and displaced persons living in Chad's poorly guarded camps suffer.

"What is important for us is that at least there is restoration of state protection," he said. "The state has becoming increasingly weak because of its military operations. Its focus has been diverted from state to regime protection. It is important for the international community to strengthen the capacity of the state to protect its citizens."

Humanitarian workers in eastern Chad report on-going inter-ethnic violence, even during heavy rains that usually halt fighting.

Amaning says the European Union is expected to send a delegation next week to Chad to decide whether it will deploy, how many troops, and which countries would participate.

He says the United Nations cannot move forward without this EU decision.

The U.N. and African Union are hoping to get all the rebel groups in Darfur and the Sudanese government to the peace table in September to try to end the four-year conflict that has claimed over 200,000 lives and uprooted 2.5 million people.

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