(Updates with quotes, background, previous N‘DJAMENA)
TRIPOLI, June 22 (Reuters) - Chad’s government and rebel leaders gathered in Tripoli on Friday for Libyan-brokered peace talks aimed at ending an insurgency against President Idriss Deby’s rule, rebel chiefs and Libyan officials said.
A coalition of Chadian rebels have been fighting a hit-and-run guerrilla war for well over a year against Deby’s forces in eastern Chad, which is also hit by a spillover of refugees and Arab Janjaweed raiders from Sudan’s Darfur region.
The bloody cycle of violence has included attacks on major towns and a rebel raid last year on Chad’s capital N‘Djamena.
Timan Erdimi, who forms part of the anti-Deby coalition, told Reuters by telephone from Tripoli that he and other rebel leaders were due to start talks on Saturday with a government delegation led by interim Prime Minister Adoum Younousmi.
"Deby has always refused to negotiate but, following pressure from Libya, he has agreed to talks," Erdimi said.
"We never wanted to negotiate but we’ve been asked by ‘The Guide’ (Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi) to do so and that’s why we’re here."
The rebels want Deby, who seized power in Chad in a 1990 eastern revolt and won a poll last year boycotted by opponents, to agree to a national political dialogue that would lead to early, free elections.
"We carried weapons only because the roads to peace were blocked before us," said Hassan Eljenadi of the Chadian National Reconciliation Movement, one of four rebel factions attending the Tripoli talks. "We came here not to surrender but for a brave reconciliation. If we don’t find this, our forces are ready."
Foreign aid groups attending several hundred thousand Sudanese refugees and Chadian civilians displaced by fighting in the east say violence has eased in recent weeks, partly because of peace pacts between Chad and Sudan brokered by Gaddafi and Saudi Arabia.
N‘Djamena and Khartoum have in the past accused each other of supporting rebel groups opposed to their respective governments.
While keeping up a military offensive against the insurgents, Deby has also tried to coax them into laying down their arms. In December, he signed a peace deal with one rebel chief, Mahamat Nour Abdelkerim, and made him defence minister.
"Those who have rights can enjoy them. Those who want to be politicians can form a peaceful opposition," Chad’s Foreign Affairs Minister Ahmat Allam-Mi told Reuters in Tripoli.
Relief workers are hoping Sudan’s recent acceptance of a strong joint AU-U.N. peacekeeping force to be deployed in Darfur will also help to ease the conflict in eastern Chad.