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Chad Ready for Peace Talks with Libya

August 14, 1987

LOME, Togo (AP) _ President Hissene Habre of Chad is willing to meet Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi about ways to end fighting along their border, but not about Libyan territorial claims, his foreign minister said Thursday.

Gouara Lassou said after meeting with Gen. Gnassimbe Eyadema, president of Togo: ″The liberation of our Aouzou territory does not keep us from following our good-neighbor policy with Libya, a brother country. We do not confuse the Libyan people with Col. Gadhafi and his regime. Even Gadhafi - President Habre is ready to meet him at any time.″

Chad announced Saturday that it had recaptured the town of Aouzou, the main settlement in the disputed Aouzou strip just below the border with Libya, the former French colony’s northern neighbor.

Lassou said Chad’s border would not be a matter of discussion in any meeting with Gadhafi.

Libya’s ambassador to Paris, Hamed Houdeiri, was quoted by the French news agency Agence France-Presse as saying his government would welcome mediation if it did not address ownership of the Aouzou strip, ″which is Libyan.″

Houdeiri confirmed Chadian reports of daily Libyan bombing of Aouzou and several towns farther south in northern Chad, the agency report said.

″We are going to drive them from Aouzou. We are attacking the places from which their reinforcements come,″ he was quoted as saying.

Chad’s army headquarters in N’Djamena, the capital, said overnight bombing of Aouzou left part of the town ″totally burned.″

A dispatch from Paris by the Libyan news agency JANA quoted what it called reliable Chadian sources as saying Chadian soldiers were fighting among themselves and some had fled. There was no confirmation.

Libyan troops were driven from the rest of northern Chad in March and retreated to the Aouzou strip, which Gadhafi annexed in 1973. No other government recognized the annexation.

Gadhafi’s government cites a 1935 treaty between France and Italy, the former colonial powers in the two countries, as support for its claim to the strip. Officials in Paris say the French and Italian parliaments voted to ratify the treaty, but the formalities were not completed.

France supported Chad’s drive to the borders of the strip, but has urged Chad to submit the Aouzou issue to international arbitration rather than using force to drive the Libyans out. The French have about 1,500 soldiers in Chad but they have not been involved in the fighting.

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