French archeologist Francoise Claustre flew hom today after nearly three years of captivity in the hands of rebels in Chad, happy to be free but bitter about her government's attitude toward her plight.
Claustre, 39, paid tribute here to Libyan leader Col. Muammar Qaddafi, who negotiated the release - on Sunday - of the archeologist and her husband Pierre. But she remained silent when asked whether she felt the French government had abandoned her.
"I think you all saw a film on French television in September 1975, when I was facing possible execution," she told a press conference. The film showed her sobbing as she denounced the French government for failing to obtain her freedom.
"There is nothing to say," she added, biting her lip as tears came to her eyes. She would not answer further questions on the subject.
After the press conference, the couple was flown aboard a French presidential jet to her family's home city of Toulouse. The Claustres were taken to purpan Hospital, where doctors said they appeared to be in excellent health and probably would remain no more than 48 hours.
Pierre Claustre said on French television that he was impressed by his rebel captors in Chad - "We were profoundly affected by the Toubous and I hope they achieve their rights."
The rebellious Toubon tribesmen have mounted several coup attempts in an effort to unseat the Chad government, a nine-man military council headed by Gen. Felix Malloum.
Chad rebel leader Goukouni Guddei read a lengthy statement at the press conference here on the struggle of his liberation front and spoke of Mrs. Claustre's "heroic courage and patience" during her captivity.
Sitting in an ornate salon of Tripoli's former royal palace - now called the people's palace - Mrs. Claustre looked tanned but under strain as she talked of her ordeal. "The conditions in which I found myselt for almost three years changed a lot," she said. "First I was never in the same place, then at certain times I was only in the company of one or a few [rebel] fighters.
"At other times I was fortunate enough to be in contact with the local population. It was during these moments that I was able to appreciate the Toubous.
"As a woman, my Toubou friends were very welcoming and very well understood my distress and I tried as best I could to integrate myself to their family way of life.
"But of course this was not always possible, given the war situation in the Tibesti. I was often very far away [from inhabited centers], hidden in valleys or among rocks."
She said she adapted as best as she could, "I read a little and I learned Toubu a bit. I took part in the small chores of daily life of the village Toubou a bit. I taught some French to the children who also taught me some of their language."
Mrs. Claustre was on a French government-sponsored dig when she was kidnaped in April 1974 in northern Chad. Her husband was captured in August 1975, after a single-handed attempt to free her.
Libyan authorities have said that French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing asked Qaddafi to intervene on the Claustres' behalf and that Libya had exerted strenous efforts to secure their release.
The couple were held in separate camps until being reunited last July, Mrs. Claustre told reporters.
Mrs. Claustre said that, during her remaining hours on Libyan soil, she wanted to "express my deepest gratitude and thanks from the depth of my to Colonel Gaddafi and the Libyan authorities to whom we own our freedom."