If Libyan troops move forward in Chad, French forces will not only stop them, they will attack, President Francois Mitterrand said Thursday in an interview with the newspaper, Le Monde.
It was Mr. Mitterrand's first on-the-record explanation of French strategy in the Chad conflict, reports Monitor contributor William Echikson. While Mitterrand used the forum to issue a sharp warning to Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, he also expressed a cautious attitude that he hopes will keep the conflict from escalating further, saying that:
* Although French troops will not turn back any Libyan offensive, they will not aid the forces of President Hissein Habre in an attempt to retake the northern oasis of Faya-Largeau.
* France continues to favor a peaceful, negotiated settlement to the conflict. The French President said he sees little hope of bringing together the two rival Chadian leaders, Mr. Habre and former President Goukhouni Woddei, so he is preparing to work through the framework of the Organization of African Unity and the United Nations.
* France will not accept a partitioning of Chad. But an agreement for some type of ''federation'' worked out by the Chadians themselves might be acceptable.
* Friction with the US over the conflict has been eased. ''Things have returned to order'' between Paris and Washington, Mitterrand said.
* He had hesitated to send French troops to Chad, because he wanted ''it to be clear to the eyes of every country in the world that the determination to force a war was that of Libya and not France.''