PARIS, June 17 The European Union's foreign policy chief said on Tuesday its peacekeepers in Chad were not to blame for damage caused by rebel attacks in the east of the African country.
Chadian President Idriss Deby on Monday accused the force, known as EUFOR, of "closing its eyes" to a new round of attacks launched last week, allowing rebels to steal cars and burn humanitarian food and fuel supplies.
EUFOR has a United Nations mandate to protect nearly half a million civilian refugees, and says it returned 'warning fire' on unidentified attackers last week.
"I can tell you EUFOR is doing a fantastic job there ... That is nothing you can blame on EUFOR," Javier Solana told reporters on the sidelines of an arms fair in Paris.
"President Deby is giving declarations in a difficult time and all, but (our) cooperation with him runs deep ... I was with him a few weeks ago," he said.
The rebels, whose columns of armed pick-up trucks have pushed westwards from the border with Sudan into eastern Chad, have said they attacked three towns so far in hit-and-run raids that have criss-crossed the desert.
Deby has long accused eastern neighbour Sudan of backing his rebel foes, and on Tuesday also accused it of attacking a Chadian border town with its regular army.
Sudan routinely denies accusations of involvement in Chad, and in turn accuses Deby of supporting Sudanese rebels, some of whom who attacked Khartoum last month. (Reporting by Brian Rohan, editing by Myra MacDonald)