President Hissene Habre says Libya has used a yearlong cease-fire to amass up to 40,000 soldiers and heavy weaponry on its southern border with Chad.
The 48-year-old Chadian leader, in an interview with Reuters two months after the north African neighbors resumed diplomatic links, also cast doubt on Libya's commitment to seeking a peaceful end to their longstanding border dispute."We cannot say that everyone is for peace, and even if the will for peace exists it does not always materialize . . . " he said on Friday at his office inside the heavily guarded presidential compound in the capital, N'djamena.
Habre said between 30,000 and 40,000 men and at least 600 tanks and armored vehicles have been deployed at five bases - Tumo, in southwest Libya bordering Niger and Chad; Elwyg, in southern Libya; Tanoua (also know as Aouzou base), straddling the border between Libya and the disputed Aouzou Strip; a base he called "Tanoua Two" and another at Maaten-es-Sara, both inside Libya.
"Libya has more than made up for the heavy losses it suffered about a year ago in both men and hardware," he said.
Habre, former guerrilla leader turned president, stunned the world last year when his ragged army of desert warriors routed vastly superior Libyan forces which had occupied most of northern Chad for four years.
But Chadian troops failed to hold the Aouzou Strip, the 42,000 square-mile mineral-rich sliver of Saharan desert the two countries have been fighting over since 1973.
Habre said the Libyan buildup included construction of the "Tanoua Two" airbase inside Libya's internationally recognized border, 30 miles northeast of Tanoua.
"One might ask against whom these enormous forces are arrayed?" he said, adding that Libyan planes violate Chadian airspace almost daily.
"Peace with Libya is not yet at hand. There are still many obstacles to be overcome," Habre said, adding that Chad was ready to explore any avenue likely to lead to a lasting settlement.
Last week Chad shot down a Libyan military aircraft over northern Chad in the first major incident reported since the two nations agreed to lay down arms under an Organization of African Unity (OAU)-sponsored truce in September 1987.
N'djamena later expressed regrets and said the incident should not affect detente with Tripoli.
Representatives of the 50-member OAU and diplomatic sources say peace talks appear stymied by Libya's demand that an estimated 1,500 Libyan prisoners of war held in Chad be released soon.