April 16, 2008 / 4:40 PM / 11 years ago

Chad president names new premier in dialogue move

N’DJAMENA, April 16 (Reuters) - Chadian President Idriss Deby named a new prime minister on Wednesday, promoting his international affairs adviser to head the government as he Hsought to foster a dialogue with his political foes.

Youssouf Saleh Abbas was appointed in place of Nouradine Delwa Kassire Coumakoye, who had served as premier of the landlocked central African oil producer since February 2007, when he took over from a previous head of government who died.

Abbas, a trained diplomat, had been working as adviser to Deby for international relations and also as his special liaison with the European Union military force that has deployed in Chad’s eastern borderlands to protect civilians and refugees.

The force is called EUFOR, has more than half its troops supplied by France and is expected to number 3,700 at full strength. It became operational last month.

It has been tasked by the United Nations to provide security for humanitarian operations in eastern Chad, where more than half a million people, both Sudanese and Chadians, have fled violence spilling over from Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region. The appointment of a new prime minister was expected to lead to the formation of a new government shortly. It follows the renewal of dialogue between Deby and his political opponents grouped in a coalition calling itself the Coordination of Political Parties for the Defence of the Constitution (CPDC).

Opposition officials were not immediately available for comment on the appointment.

The CPDC is urging the president to seek peace with eastern rebel groups which have fought for more than two years to topple him. Deby himself took power in a 1990 revolt and was re-elected in 2006 in polls boycotted by the opposition as unfair.

Rebel forces attacked the capital N’Djamena in early February, besieging Deby in his palace before withdrawing after three days of fighting that killed at least 700 people.

After months of hostile relations, Deby met leaders from the opposition coalition earlier this month to discuss ways of trying to bring peace to his country, including government changes and a possible ceasefire with his rebel opponents.

Rebel chiefs denounce Deby as a corrupt and dictatorial ruler they say has unfairly favoured his family and Zaghawa tribal clan in the ethnically diverse country.

They have demanded that he launch a national all-inclusive political dialogue with all his foes, including armed groups, and that he start a transition period leading to fresh, democratic elections.

He has rejected rebel demands as excessive. (For full Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit: africa.reuters.com/) (Writing by Pascal Fletcher; Editing by Nick Tattersall)

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