By Moumine Ngarmbassa
N'DJAMENA (Reuters) - Chad and Sudan plan to deploy troops at observation points along their common border in a joint bid to prevent rebel incursions that have often damaged their relations, African officials said.
A meeting of ministers from a contact group of African governments set up to improve ties between the oil-producing neighbours announced the initiative at the weekend after meeting on Saturday in the Chadian capital N'Djamena.
Chad and Sudan exchanged ambassadors a week ago, restoring diplomatic ties cut by Khartoum in May after an attack on the Sudanese capital by Darfur rebels, who the Sudanese government said were supported by Chadian President Idriss Deby. Chad has also accused Sudan of backing rebel attacks on its own capital.
Chadian Foreign Minister Moussa Faki Mahamat said after the meeting of the contact group, which brings together senior officials from Chad, Sudan, Libya, Gabon, Congo Republic, Senegal and Eritrea, that a dozen observation posts would be set up on either side of the long, rugged Chad-Sudan frontier.
"We're talking about 1,000 Chadian soldiers and 1,000 Sudanese soldiers who will be deployed on either side of the frontier," Mahamat said.
Congo Republic Foreign Minister Basile Ikouebe said the deployments were expected to occur by January.
"This is a force tasked with deploying along the frontier to observe that there are no movements from one or other country that destabilise or create situations of destabilisation," he said.
The two neighbouring countries have signed numerous non-aggression pacts that have subsequently been broken.
More than 3,000 European Union troops are already deployed in the border area of eastern Chad to protect around a quarter of a million Sudanese and Chadian civilians displaced by violence often spilling over from Sudan's western Darfur region.
The EU force mission does not include engaging Sudanese or Chadian rebels unless these attack them or civilians directly.
The Chad-Sudan relationship has been complicated by Sudan's festering Darfur conflict, which international experts say has killed 200,000 people and displaced 2.5 million more since mostly non-Arab rebels revolted against the government in 2003, accusing it of neglecting the region.
Khartoum accuses the media of exaggerating the conflict as part of a western conspiracy against Sudan.
Many of the conflict's rebel forces come from cross-border tribal groups, and there are tribal links between Chadian leaders and prominent Darfur rebel figures.
Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who faces moves by the International Criminal Court to indict him for genocide in Darfur, on Thursday announced an unconditional ceasefire in the western region, where a joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force is on the ground, though under strength.
Darfuri rebel groups accused the Sudanese army of bombing territory they controlled near Kurbia in north Darfur on Friday.
Sudan's military said on Sunday it had clashed with armed bandits, but a senior official said the fighting did not amount to a breach of the ceasefire.