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Sudan denies supports CAR rebels

Nov 9, 2006 (KHARTOUM) — Sudan has denied supporting rebels holding a town in northeast Central African Republic (CAR), saying the forces responsible were former backers of President Francois Bozize who had turned against him.

Bozize accused Khartoum last week of sending the rebels across the border to occupy the town of Birao on Oct. 30. Both CAR and neighbouring Chad say they are victims of violence spilling over from Sudan’s western Darfur region.

"That is absolutely untrue," Sudan’s most powerful presidential adviser, Nafie Ali Nafie, said of the accusation at a news conference late on Wednesday night.

"The accusation from the president of the Central African Republic came after a visit to Chad so he was under the influence of the president of Chad," Nafie said.

"We all know that the current rebels in CAR are the same forces that put President Bozize in power and now they have had differences," he added.

Like Bozize, Chad’s President Idriss Deby accuses Sudan of arming rebels in his country. Tens of thousands of Chadians have fled their homes and the country also houses more than 200,000 refugees from Darfur.

Khartoum, for its part, accuses Deby of arming Darfuri rebels. Darfur’s conflict, which experts estimate to have killed 200,000 people and displaced 2.5 million, has destabilised the entire region with numerous armed groups roaming across the long and porous borders.

In the CAR, Birao is being held by the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR) rebel group. The UFDR says many of its fighters previously fought with Bozize, who seized power in 2003, but CAR officials say it also includes some Chadians.

The UFDR has vowed to fight any government attempt to regain control of Birao, but has also said it will allow relief in for the civilian population.

Thousands of CAR refugees have fled across the border to southern Chad from the lawless north, which is far from central authority and plagued by banditry.

(Reuters)