Statement by Deputy Press Secretary Speakes on the Situation in Chad

August 9, 1983

Libya's forces are centrally involved in the fighting in Chad. In fact, if it were not for Libya's forces -- both through advisers and combat elements and air power -- there wouldn't be the kind of fighting that we are seeing in Chad.

The precise numbers in a situation like this are hard to come by, but our estimate is that there are 1,500-2,000 Libyan troops in Chad and that this represents a significant increase over the number present in the weeks before the rebel attack on Faya Largeau. There is no question that the Libyan troops are there, including mechanized units; nor is there any question of repeated Libyan air attacks against various northern centers, including Faya Largeau. We have reports that the Libyan troops and Libyan-supported rebels besieging Faya Largeau have a substantial number of Libyan armored vehicles and heavy artillery for bombardment and that their air attacks have included both bombs and napalm.

We consider the situation at Faya Largeau serious and threatening. The Libyan Government seems to be seeking to portray what's happening in Chad as a civil conflict and to portray the Government of Chad as not having legitimacy. The fact of the matter is that the Organization of African Unity has recognized the legitimacy of the Habre government. The most recent OAU statement was one issued in mid-July by the OAU summit bureau calling for an end to foreign interference and appealing for a cease-fire. There is no question in the eyes of the OAU and the majority of African States that Habre's is the legitimate government. Libya would like to have it otherwise. Libya would like to overturn that government and substitute its surrogate as the government of Chad. Were this to happen -- if Qadhafi were able to set up an established government simply by using its overwhelming military might to do so -- that this would have consequences beyond the borders of Chad.

Our view is that we have provided limited materiel support for the Government of Chad. We have done so in the context of other African support for that government and in a far larger French effort. In all of our contacts, we have no information to suggest that in fact France has changed its position on support of Chad. A French statement over the weekend was subsequently clarified in Paris, and we understand the French position to be that they will make appropriate decisions in light of the situation in Chad. We are operating in the context of African and French support for the Government of Chad.