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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 November 2007, 06:29 GMT
France 'let down' Chad aid staff
Eric Breteau with jail guards - 8/11/2007
Eric Breteau said the charity believed it was helping orphans
The head of a French charity arrested in Chad on child abduction charges has said that the French government has let him and his colleagues down.

The French authorities knew of his charity's plan to take children to France, Zoe's Ark head Eric Breteau told the French news agency AFP.

He said his charity was trying to rescue orphans from Darfur.

Aid agencies have said most of the 103 children are from Chad and have at least one parent or other guardian.

"The French government let us down. They even made it worse for us," Mr Breteau told AFP.

Conflicting stories

Mr Breteau and 20 others were arrested last month allegedly trying to take the children to France.

A Spanish flight crew has been released along with three French photographers and a Belgian pilot.

Six French workers from Zoe's Ark remain in jail in Chad, charged with child kidnapping. Four Chadians have been charged with complicity.

Chad's President Idriss Deby visited the orphans in Abeche Oct 07
Most of the 103 children say they are Chadian and lived with family
Mr Breteau said the charity thought it was rescuing children from the war-torn region of Darfur, in Chad's neighbour Sudan.

His colleague, Emilie Lelouch, said village chiefs who helped them "may have lied to us" about the family status of the children.

"If these children had parents, why did we never see them since the children were with us for more than six weeks," Ms Lelouch told AFP.

An investigation by international aid groups said most of the children were from Chadian villages on the border with Darfur and had parents.

Earlier this month, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he wanted to go to Chad to bring the French aid workers back home, angering many Chadians.

But French officials have also said the charity's operation was "illegal and irresponsible".

Last week several thousand students held violent anti-French protests to demand that the aid workers be tried in Chad.

If found guilty, the charity workers could face several years with hard labour in a Chadian prison.

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