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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 November 2007, 12:10 GMT
Chad case children 'not orphans'
Chad protesters
Chadians have been protesting against the alleged kidnapping
International agencies have rejected the "war orphan" label given to 103 children at the centre of a child abduction scandal in Chad.

A joint report by two UN agencies and the Red Cross said 91 of the children came from a home with at least one adult considered to be a parent figure.

The agencies said most of the 21 girls and 82 boys, aged one to 10, came from villages in Chad near the Sudan border.

Six workers from the French Zoe's Ark charity are charged with kidnapping.

Three French journalists and seven Spanish air crew are also facing charges.

The charity said the children came from Darfur, on the Sudanese side of the border, while local reports said they were from Chad.

A wife of one of the accused charity workers has said the group wanted to rescue the children and give them a better life.

'Probably Chadian'

The report - compiled by the Red Cross, UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and UN children's agency (Unicef) - said the overwhelming majority of the children had close relatives of some kind.

Map of Chad and Sudan

"In the course of the conversations... 91 of the children mentioned a family environment consisting of at least one adult person that they considered a parent," it said.

In an interview with French TV, a UNHCR spokesman in the region later clarified that this could mean an extended family, one of whose members the child might call "mum" or "dad".

The report said 85 of the children came from the Adre and Tine border areas of Chad, but did not mention their nationalities.

UNHCR spokeswoman Annette Rehrl in the Chadian border town of Abeche told BBC News the children were most probably Chadian but could also be Sudanese as both ethnicities lived on both sides of the border.

Most of the children were aged three to five and were too young to be asked about their nationality, Ms Rehrl added, saying it would take time to find and ask their parents.

The agencies said some of the children had been treated for small injuries, but none appeared to be suffering from serious health conditions.

The report said the agencies would "continue their efforts to find a quick and appropriate solution for each one of the 103 children to allow them to go back home, join their families and live a child's life".

Fears for EU force

The affair has caused a diplomatic storm between Chad and its former colonial power, France, although France has condemned the charity's activities.

However, French President Nicolas Sarkozy phoned his Chadian counterpart Idriss Deby requesting the release of the three journalists on the grounds that they were not complicit in the alleged abductions.

Mr Deby said he would do everything in his power to secure their release, Mr Sarkozy's office said.

Correspondents say there have been worries the affair will damage relations - France is the main backer of a European Union peace force due to go to the region in the next few weeks to protect Darfur refugees. People in Abeche came out onto the streets on Wednesday in protest at the alleged kidnappings.

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