Qatar calls on Chad to delay national peace dialogue
Qatar, which has been leading tense mediation between Chad's military government and opposition rebels for six weeks, on Sunday called for landmark national talks to be postponed.
The African state's military leader Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno had wanted a national dialogue to start on May 10 to prepare elections, but the government and rebel groups have yet to meet face-to-face at preparatory talks in Doha.
While opposition groups have accused Deby's administration of dragging out the Doha talks, the Qatari government said its mediation was making "tangible" progress at "a good pace".
"In this context, the foreign ministry calls on the Transitional Military Council of the Republic of Chad to postpone the comprehensive national dialogue," the Qatari ministry said in a statement.
Talks had already been pushed back from February. Qatar said a new delay would "give the participating parties more time to reach a peace agreement in preparation for the convening of the comprehensive national dialogue."
Deby, a 38-year-old general, came to power just over one year ago after his father, longtime leader Idriss Deby Itno, was fatally wounded in a battle with rebels.
More than 40 opposition groups and the military government have had delegations in Doha since March 13 when the preliminary talks officially opened.
But they have spent much of the time in luxury hotels as the Qatari mediators seek to establish enough common ground for the two sides to begin full talks.
Opposition groups are demanding that Deby rule himself out of the elections that the military leader has said will be held this year.
They also want safety guarantees to allow opposition leaders, who are mostly in exile in neighbouring Libya, Sudan and Europe, to return to Chad.
Qatar had originally only wanted to host talks and was reluctant to become a full mediator.
But the foreign ministry reaffirmed Qatar's "full support for Chad's efforts in this political process, in order to achieve the aspirations of its people for peace, security and stability."