Chad demands removal of Darfur refugees from its border with Sudan

By TOM MALITI

Associated Press Writer

N'DJAMENA, Chad (AP) -- Chad's prime minister demanded Monday that the international community remove refugees who have fled to Chad from Sudan's Darfur region, warning that Chadian authorities would otherwise do it themselves.

Prime Minister Nouradin Koumakoye charged that Sudan's government has fomented violence in Chad -- including backing a failed coup attempt last week -- because of the refugees' presence. Sudan has denied that it backs Chadian rebels.

"We are being attacked by Sudan because of these refugees," Koumakoye told reporters in the Chadian capital, N'Djamena.

"We demand that the international community transfer the population (of Sudanese refugees) from Chad to Sudan to free us," he said. "We want the international community to look for another country so that the Sudanese can leave. If they cannot do it, we are going to do it."

Over the weekend, about 12,000 Darfuris fled to Chad following air strikes by the Sudanese military, adding to the 280,000 Sudanese already seeking refuge in eastern Chad.

The U.N. has said there are another 140,000 Chadians in the region who have been displaced by a spillover of the violence.

The U.N. refugee agency has been appealing for better access to refugees along Chad's eastern border, urging the Chadian government to open a "humanitarian air corridor" to allow relief flights into the area.

Chad has threatened to expel the Darfuris gathered along its eastern border before. After rebel attacks in April 2006, Chad's President Idriss Deby said he would force them back into Sudan if the international community did not take action to prevent Sudan from destabilizing his country. Deby backed off a few days later under intense international pressure.

Chad has accused Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir of backing rebels in last week's coup attempt in a bid to prevent deployment of a European peacekeeping force in the border region.

The rebels, who accuse Deby of corruption and embezzling millions in oil revenue, attacked the capital a week ago, advancing in trucks mounted with guns in a matter of days from their eastern bases near the Sudan border. They were repelled after bloody battles.

The Chadian Red Cross said Sunday that it has collected 137 bodies from N'Djamena's streets -- victims of the clashes between rebels and government troops.

The fighting in N'Djamena forced more than 30,000 to flee across the Chari River into Cameroon. Deby said his government is in control of the country and has called on the refugees to return.

But French officials have said that the Chadian rebels do not appear to have fled to Sudan as Chad's government suggested they would. There were clashes between government and rebel forces in central Chad on Friday.