Libya denies part in Chad conflict, warns Egypt to stay out of fight
Libya has accused Egypt of preparing for a military intervention in Chad and has warned that it will not remain idle. Speaking to the Monitor by telephone from Tripoli, Libyan Foreign Minister Abdel Ati Obeidi stressed Libyan support for the Chadian dissidents led by former President Goukhouni Woddei.
But Mr. Obeidi denied Chadian President Hissen Habre's accusations that Libya's air force supported the rebels during their takeover of Faya-Largeau, Chad's second largest city, last week.
''We are neutral, but if there is any outside intervention, we will not stand by and watch events in Chad,'' Mr. Obeidi said.
He charged that Egyptian claims of Libyan interference in Chad were ''a pretext for involvement.''
Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, according to Western diplomats, is mounting a campaign against alleged Egyptian intentions in Chad.
Describing Egypt's role in Chad as ''irresponsible,'' Libyan radio denounced ''Egyptian expansionist ambitions which may involve intervention in Chad.'' The radio went on to say that accusations against Libya were a means of ''paving the way for Egyptian military intervention in Chad.''
The Libyan foreign minister expressed hope that ''everybody will allow the Chadian people to solve their own problems.''
The Sudan News Agency recently quoted Chadian rebel soldiers who had defected from Mr. Woddei's forces to the Niger capital of Niamey as saying that Libya had send eight Soviet-built Sukhoi bombers, two Tupolev bombers, and two US-built C- 130 Hercules transport planes to Aouzou near the Libya-Chad border in support of the rebel offensive.
Libya, Mr. Obeidi said, offers independent observers the opportunity to verify its claims that it is not involved in the fighting in Chad.
''We are ready for any observers to be sure that what we are saying is right, '' the minister said.
Mr. Obeidi was speaking shortly after Egypt's minister of state for foreign affairs, Butros Ghali, on a visit to Chad, refused to rule out the possibility of Egyptian military support for the embattled government of President Habre.
Asked if Egypt would intervene militarily, Mr. Ghali is quoted as saying: ''Nothing is ruled out.''
Earlier Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak described Libyan actions in Chad as ''grave.''
In a joint statement issued in Alexandria June 28, Mr. Mubarak and visiting Sudanese President Jaafar Nimeiry denounced Libyan involvement in Chad but did not mention Libya by name. The two presidents warned that ''the continuation of such aggression will drive the two countries to take measures which the situation might require. . . .'' It added that the measures would be taken ''. . . not only in the defense of African legitimacy and the OAU, whose role as provider of security and stability the two states seek to reinforce, but also to forestall the execution of any agressive intention any party may have against countries adjacent to Chad.''
Egyptian officials fear that Libya wishes to turn Chad into a launching pad for subversive action against neighboring Sudan.
Earlier, Mr. Obeidi told the Monitor that Libya ''has no intentions against any neighboring country'' but that ''the world is aware of the dissatisfaction of the Sudanese people.''