Chad president talks election challenges with US envoy to UN

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield visits Chad
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By Michelle Nichols

N'DJAMENA (Reuters) - Chad's interim President Mahamat Idriss Deby spoke with the U.S. envoy to the United Nations about challenges to holding an election, the envoy said on Thursday, more than two years after bypassing the central African country's constitution to install himself as leader.

Military leaders in Chad originally promised an 18-month transition to elections when Deby seized power after his father, President Idriss Deby, was killed on the battlefield during a conflict with insurgents, ending decades of authoritarian rule.

But last year the junta extended the timeline, delaying elections until October 2024, sparking protests in which dozens of civilians were killed, and worrying regional powers and the U.S. who warned against extending military rule.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield - a member of President Joe Biden's cabinet - met with Deby in Chad's capital N'Djamena.

"We did talk about the timeline and the president gave me his commitment to continuing to move forward on the transition. We talked about some of the challenges that exist to that process moving forward," Thomas-Greenfield told reporters.

She said he did not commit to a specific election date.

Deby did not speak to reporters after the meeting and the president's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The junta also ruled last year that Deby could run in elections in 2024.

In April, Chad's government ordered the German ambassador to leave the country within 48 hours, which sources say was because he commented on Chad's delayed transition to civilian rule.

Holding elections even in peacetime is a challenge in Chad, an impoverished desert nation twice the size of France.

Tensions have flared again on Chad's northern border with Libya, where fighting between rebels and the army subsided after president Idriss Deby was killed in 2021. His son sought to restore peace, pardoning hundreds of imprisoned rebels and encouraging groups to take part in peace talks.

Thomas-Greenfield had traveled to Chad to meet Sudanese refugees on the border between the two states. War broke out in Sudan on April 15 after tensions between the army (SAF) and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), which jointly staged a coup in 2021, erupted into fighting over a plan to transition to civilian rule.

"We spent quite a bit of time talking about the situation on the Sudan border. I thanked the president for Chad's welcoming environment. I thanked him for their hospitality," she said.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Additional reporting by Ed McAllister; Editing by Josie Kao)