Rebels fighting near presidential palace in Chad capital

 

 Around 2,000 Chadian rebels entered Ndjamena earlier on Saturday where they were engaged in fierce battles with government troops, notably around the presidential palace, military sources said.

 

Chadian President Idriss Deby is at the presidency and the situation is under control in the capital, Foreign Minister Ahmet Allami told AFP on Saturday amid reports of the rebel advance in Ndjamena.

 

Chad state radio went off the air as rebels advanced into the capital, opposition leader Ibni Oumar Mahamat Saleh said in a telephone call.

 

Saleh said rebels had entered the city and shooting that had erupted in the morning appeared to have died down. He said there were no soldiers in his neighborhood and the state broadcaster had gone off the air in the morning.
“At the moment we are not hearing any firing ... The rebels are in the city. Civilians are in the streets. They are watching what is happening,” said Saleh, the coordinator of Chad’s main non-armed opposition alliance.

 

GLOBAL REACTION

 

The African Union is deeply worried by fighting in Chad, where the army is battling rebels who have pushed into the capital and within kilometres of the presidential palace, the AU's top diplomat said.

 

"We are really, deeply preoccupied by the situation today in Chad," Jean Ping, the new chairman of the AU Commission told reporters on the sidelines of an African summit in Ethiopia

 

Iran has invited the leaders of Chad and Sudan for talks as Chadian rebels battled the army in their most determined offensive in two years, Iran's foreign minister said on Saturday at the African summit.

 

"Yesterday ... I was in contact with our Chadian and Sudanese friends and we are planning for a trilateral summit in Tehran," Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters.

 

Also speaking at the Africa Union summit, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi condemned Chadian rebels who have fought their way into Ndjamena in an attempt to overthrow President Idriss Deby.

Gaddafi said Deby had been democratically elected in 2006 and was the legal power in Chad. "This is a great violation," he said.

  

Elsewhere, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has held talks with Chad's President Idriss Deby to discuss the current violence in Chad between government and rebel troops, Sarkozy's office said in a statement.

 

The Elysee statement added that Sarkozy would hold another meeting on Saturday to discuss the Chad situation.
(Input from AP, AFP and Reuters)
 
 
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