The State Department, reacting to a series of new international developments, announced yesterday that a policy review is under way concerning the embattled African country of Chad.
Spokesman Dean Fischer said the impetus for the review came from the French decisions to provide aid to the Chadian regime of President Oueddei Goukouni and to intensify the efforts to create an African peace-keeping force in that country.
Fischer, in announcing the review, cast both French actions as flowing from "the overriding objective," shared by the United States, of obtaining the withdrawal from Chad of Libyan military forces.
Libya tipped the scales of the Chadian civil war in favor of Goukouni last December by intervening with several thousand combat troops. In recent days, however, friction has been reported between Goukouni and the Libyans, with suggestions of a Libyan shift to support a rival faction headed by Foreign Minister Ahmed Acyl.
The United States withdrew all American officials and terminated aid to Goukouni's interim government following the Libyan intervention last December. Egypt and Sudan are reported to be assisting a third Chadian faction, headed by former Defense Minister Hissene Habre. U.S. officials have consistently refused comment on reports of covert American assistance to Habre intended to weaken Goukouni and to increase the cost and difficulty of Libyan efforts.
Among likely topics of the U.S. policy review are reducing or terminating aid to Habre and starting U.S. aid to Goukouni. Fischer yesterday "welcomed" the French plan to back Goukouni with humanitarian and logistical aid and, according to some reports, military aid.
Another issue is the degree of U.S. backing for the African peace-keeping force sponsored by the Organization of African Unity.
In Cancun, Mexico, late last week at the North-South summit conference, top French officials announced a renewed drive, including French material, logistical and financial aid, to back an OAU force because of a "gravely deteriorated" situation in Chad.
French Foreign Minister Claude Cheysson, in a midnight news conference, said France wants to see advance units of the African force in Chad within days.
Since the French initiative, the Nigerian Senate has approved dispatching about 2,000 Nigerian troops to the OAU force. Senegal has offered to provide about 600 men, according to State Department officials.The Ivory Coast reportedly is prepared to send troops.
Formation and dispatch of an OAU force with the blessing of Chad's recognized government would create a serious political problem for Libya. Muammar Qaddafi, the Libyan leader, is scheduled to become OAU president next summer, but this ambition could be thwarted by refusal to withdraw Libyan forces in the face of the OAU effort.
The administration, meanwhile, has taken the first tangible steps to bring about the acceleration of U.S. aid to Sudan that was promised in recent weeks.
Congress was formally notified last Monday of the administration's intention to sell Sudan 20 M60 tanks costing $36 million. Lawmakers were told informally of plans to send two used F5F fighters and 12 howitzers to Sudan by Dec. 3l.
Additional aid to Sudan, justified in part on the threat from Libyan forces in Chad, is still being negotiated between Washington and Khartoum, official sources said.