Deby criticises French military presence in Chad

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Chad's President Idriss Deby Itno criticised France's military presence in the country Wednesday in comments to mark the 50th anniversary of independence from its former colonial ruler.

The veteran leader told reporters that his government would seek financial compensation for allowing France to maintain its military operation, codenamed Epervier (Sparrowhawk), which he said "is no longer playing a role" in Chad.

"It's now 20 years since Epervier exists and it no longer playing a role apart from providing some healthcare for the sick and logistical support in case of an attack somewhere," he said.

"We are going to review the accord....France pays nothing to Chad apart from some goods which come in through customs.

"If France wants to stay in Chad and use its planes, train its men, there is a price to pay and the accord will allow us to clafiry what France must pay Chad."

France has around 1,100 soldiers based in Chad and 800 others are serving in a UN-led force to protect refugees in eastern Chad, mostly from Darfur in western Sudan.

However, in January the government said it wanted the 3,300-strong UN Mission to the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT) to leave the country.

© 2010 AFP

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