Chad unarmed

Agreement of France and Libya to withdraw their troops from Chad should be cautiously welcomed as a first step in a challenging effort to restore unity to that African nation.

In view of the unpredictability of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, France is properly cautious about the pullout itself, insisting that it will not withdraw its troops unless and until Libya does.

Beyond withdrawal lies the requirement that the two warring sides in the Chadian dispute reach political accommodation, so that the nation can begin to rebuild politically. Other nations should encourage reconciliation in the long dispute between the faction led by President Hissein Habre, which controls southern Chad, and that of rebel leader Goukhouni Woddei, which runs the north. There may be a role here for the Organization of African Unity to play. It is important that the situation not be allowed to deteriorate toward a resumption of fighting.

Other nations should keep a sharp eye on Colonel Qaddafi to make certain that he does not again supply military equipment to Chadian rebels, whose border abuts Libya's southern frontier. One unanswered question is whether Qaddafi has agreed to end such support as well as withdraw troops. Ultimately Chad should be given economic assistance in a modest amount, which is all the nation can absorb , as well as technical help, to enable it to recover economically and politically. Without war Chad has the potential to be economically viable; during the military stalemate of the past year the economy of southern Chad improved to the point that the area is now making money exporting cotton.

Nations able to furnish aid should stress that it will be provided only after the two sides are well into the process of reaching accommodation and that neither arms nor other military assistance will again be given.

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