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As fighting rages in Chad, France's new role revealed

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France 'not involved' yet

Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who has placed his credibility on the line for the Darfur protection force, said France is "on the side" of the legally elected government in Chad but at the same time would not get in the middle of two opposing Chadian factions.

"We are not involved in this war," Kouchner said. "For the moment there is no change, but if there is a Security Council resolution, if there is another suggestion from the African Union meeting, we will see" about intervening unilaterally.

The UN Security Council on Monday condemned the rebel attack and gave a green light for France and other countries to help the government repel the rebel force. At press time, it was unclear what specific actions France was prepared to take, but the surprisingly swift advance of rebels from the borderlands of Darfur straight up to the steps of the presidential palace have shown just how vulnerable Chad's government is, and how dependent Déby has become on French military support.

The ramifications could also affect the chances for peace in Darfur itself.

From the moment France decided to lead a neutral European Union peacekeeping force in Chad, it lost its ability to act unilaterally to shore up the Déby government, experts say.

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