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Sudan accused of launching assault

NDJAMENA, May 5 – Chad accused Sudan on Tuesday of launching a military assault on its territory, two days after the neighbours signed a reconciliation agreement in the Qatari capital Doha.

Government spokesman Mahamat Hissene announced on state radio that Sudan had reneged on the deal and sent "several armoured columns" to attack Chad.

"While the ink has yet to dry on the Doha accord, the Khartoum regime has just launched several armoured columns against our country," said Hissene, who is also communications minister.

He accused Khartoum of a "planned aggression" but did not say whether Sudan’s forces had entered Chad’s territory or if they had stopped at the border.

Sudan immediately denied the accusations. Army spokesman Osman al-Agbash told AFP: "What is happening now inside Chad is between the Chadian army and the Chadian rebels," saying Sudan had nothing to do with it.

There was no immediate reports of fighting.

Chad has accused Sudan of supporting rebels seeking to oust President Idriss Deby Itno, while Khartoum has accused Ndjamena of backing ethnic rebels in the restive western Sudanese province of Darfur.

However, at the conclusion of talks in Doha on Sunday, the two countries struck a deal to end hostilities and arrange a summit between their leaders in a move seen as vital for peace-making efforts in Sudan’s western province of Darfur.

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Diplomats have been keen to secure a thaw in relations between Khartoum and Ndjamena, regarding it as essential to any lasting settlement to the six-year-old uprising in the western Sudanese region of Darfur that has spilled over into Chad and the Central African Republic.

Sunday’s talks were brokered by Qatar and Libya, whose officials have been been leading reconciliation efforts between Chad and Sudan after they restored diplomatic ties in November following the latest six-month rupture between the neighbours.

Chad had previously frozen its ties with Sudan for four months after an earlier rebel attack it said had been carried out with its neighbour’s backing.

As part of the new agreement, Sudan and Chad have undertaken to implement previous deals on border controls to block the transit of Chadian rebels from Sudan and Sudanese rebels from Chad, Qatari officials said.

But that deal appeared to have given way to fighting talk on Tuesday.

"The ever-vigilant defence and security forces will acquit themselves valiantly in their patriotic duty," Hissene told state radio.

"In signing the Doha accord, the Khartoum regime has acted with the same duplicity it showed towards preceding accords," Hissene said, adding that Sudan had "changed neither its intentions nor its strategy".

The main Chadian rebel alliance — the Union of Forces of the Resistance (UFR) — continues to operate from rear-bases in Sudan and has vowed to launch a new offensive against Ndjamena like the one in February 2008 that almost toppled Deby’s regime.

The UFR called on France and "friendly countries" on Monday to maintain "strict neutrality in the internal conflict in Chad which does not concern them," in a statement released in Libreville. The rebels blame French peacekeepers for helping Deby push back last year’s assault on Ndjamena.

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