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US diplomat arrives in Chad to discuss oil royalties dispute


April 24, 2006 (N’DJAMENA) — A senior U.S. diplomat arrived in Chad’s capital Monday for talks on how the country spends its newfound oil wealth, a dispute that has the government threatening to shut off oil supplies by the end of the week.

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Deby waves to supporters in the capital N’djamena, Friday, April 14, 2006 (Reuters).

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Donald Yamamoto scheduled meetings with President Idriss Deby, Chad’s oil minister, opposition leaders and other officials before he leaves Tuesday. He declined to comment as he arrived at N’djamena’s airport.

Chad exports 160,000 barrels of oil a day through a U.S.-Malaysia consortium including Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Petronas. But it’s still among the poorest countries in the world, even though it began exporting oil in October 2003.

The World Bank helped finance Chad’s oil industry after the country agreed to stringent rules on using the revenues for development. But in January, the bank said Deby had breached the deal and froze Chad’s US$125 million (A103 million) in oil revenue and cut US$124 million (A102.5 million) in financial aid.

Deby threatened earlier this month to cut off oil deliveries by April 30 if the funds are not released. The threat came after a rebel attack on the outskirts of N’djamena, which the government said left at least 350 people dead. Chad has said that it needs to spend oil revenues on arms to fight the rebels, as well as development.

The rebel attack has shaken Deby, who is seeking to extend his 16-year rule in May 3 elections. Meanwhile, the rebel United Front for Democratic Change is regrouping.

World Bank officials have not commented on Yamamoto’s visit. Officials of the Exxon Mobil-led consortium said that they are in talks with Chadian authorities, the World Bank and others on the threat to shut down the oil pipeline.

The dispute over oil is the latest in a series of conflicts in Chad, which has rarely known peace since independence from France in 1960.

Chad and Sudan share a porous border that has turned increasingly violent during the three-year-old war in Sudan’s Darfur region, where Arab militias and African rebels are fighting. Some 180,000 people have died in Darfur and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes, many to camps in Chad.


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