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French and US weapons to help battle Libyan jets in Chad

On the heels of announcements from Paris and Washington that Chad will be provided anti-aircraft weapons, the Libyans have increased the frequency and intensity of their air attacks on President Hassein Habre's troops in the northern Chad town of Faya Largeau.

According to Western diplomats in N'Djemena, the Libyans, using primarily Soviet-built tactical bombers, MIG-21 and MIG-23 fighter aircrafts, and helicopter gunships, have been making their frequent attacks at lower altitude and with increased accuracy. Earlier Libyan air attacks, which began on Saturday after President Habre's Fant troops had retaken the town from the rebel forces led by Goukhouni Woddei, were made at high altitude and were considered far less destructive.

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This apparent change of strategy, according to Chad Foreign Minister Idriss Miskine, is an attempt by Libya to destroy Habre's forces before US and French-supplied anti-aircraft weapons can be put into place.

[France Monday responded favorably to an urgent plea for anti-aircraft guns from the Habre government. The Mitterand government agreed to send more than $40 million worth of supplies to the former French colony, with French officials saying no limit has been placed on future assistance. But diplomatic sources said Paris had ruled out the use of French Jaguar aircraft based in Gabon, since they would be flown by French pilots.

[The US has said it will provide Chad with $10 million in anti-aircraft equipment. The decision to send weapons follows a strong condemnation of Libyan aggression.

[''We are making available to the Chad government anti-aircraft weapons to give its forces at Faya-Largeau a better opportunity to defend themselves against continuing attacks by Libya,'' a State Department spokesman said.]

Although reliable Western sources report that the town of Faya Largeau itself has been destroyed by the Libyan air raids, Habre's troops appear to be weathering the attacks by taking cover in the vast date palm groves which surround the oasis town.

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