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Security Council backs initiative to try to resolve Chad's worsening crisis

Security Council backs initiative to try to resolve Chad's worsening crisis

The Security Council today demanded an immediate end to the violence engulfing Chad and welcomed an African Union initiative to try to engage both the Government and the armed opposition groups to find a durable solution to the country's crisis.

The condemnation of the armed groups' recent attacks against the Government comes as Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is expressing alarm at the deteriorating situation, especially its impact on Chad's large population of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs).

A team from the United Nations refugee agency is also rushing to the Chadian border with Cameroon to help thousands of residents of the capital, N'Djamena, who have been fleeing the fighting.

“The Security Council strongly condemns these attacks and all attempts at destabilization by force, and recalls its commitment to the sovereignty, unity, territorial integrity and political independence of Chad,” the 15-member panel said in a presidential statement read out by Ambassador Ricardo Alberto Arias of Panama.

It urged all States within the region “to deepen their cooperation with a view to putting an end to the activities of armed groups and their attempt to seize power by force” and to provide support to the Chadian Government if it seeks assistance.

Council members said they were concerned that the current fighting poses a direct threat to the safety of Chad's civilians, including its IDPs and refugees, estimated to number more than 460,000 in total.

This concern echoes the call of Mr. Ban, who said in a statement yesterday that he was “profoundly alarmed by the dangerous situation” and called on all sides in the conflict to ensure the safety and security of civilians, UN staff and any other international humanitarian workers.

The presidential statement read out by Mr. Arias reaffirmed the Council's full support for MINURCAT, the UN mission to Chad and the neighbouring Central African Republic (CAR) that was authorized by the Council last year to try to protect vulnerable civilians in both countries and to facilitate the provision of humanitarian assistance.

It also endorsed the work of the European Union force (EUFOR Tchad/RCA) being deployed to Chad to try to stabilize the region.

Mr. Arias said the Council applauded the AU initiative to mandate Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi and President Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of Congo “to engage the Chadian parties with a view to ending the fighting and to initiate efforts aimed at seeking a lasting solution to the crisis.”

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that it has dispatched a team of staff to the border town of Kousseri in Cameroon to assess an expected influx of thousands of Chadians.

Local officials have told the agency that thousands of Chadians have fled N'Djamena and were reaching the Kousseri area, on the other bank of the Chari river, via 15 crossing points.

Two UNHCR trucks carrying aid supplies are being sent from Bertoua in eastern Cameroon and an airlift of more supplies from either Dubai or Copenhagen is also being considered.

High Commissioner António Guterres appealed to all sides to respect humanitarian principles when dealing with civilians.

“Hundreds of thousands of uprooted people in Chad depend on international support and a very fragile aid lifeline that must reach some of the most desolate and isolated parts of the country,” Mr. Guterres said.

“We are continuing to assist, but insecurity is forcing us to relocate some staff and threatens to severely affect the flow of life-saving aid to these very vulnerable populations.”

Almost all UNHCR staff have been evacuated from N'Djamena, but some staff continue to work in most of the camps in the east, near the border with Sudan's war-wracked Darfur region.