by Madjiasra Nako and John Irish
N’DJAMENA/PARIS – French far-right leader Marine Le Pen met Chad’s President Idriss Deby on Tuesday to discuss the two allies’ cooperation in the fight against Islamist militants in Africa.
Le Pen, among the frontrunners in the French presidential election, arrived in Chad on Tuesday and is using the two-day visit to meet French troops stationed in Chad and to outline her policies for the continent.
“We have of course discussed the cooperation between France and Chad in the fight against terrorism,” the National Front party candidate said after the meeting with Deby in Am-Djarass, near the borders with Libya and Sudan.
She said they had also discussed Libya, and she again condemned France’s role in helping to oust its longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi, which she called “a serious mistake … with serious consequences.”
Chad has one of the region’s most capable militaries and hosts the headquarters of France’s 4,000-strong West African anti-militant operation, known as Barkhane.
Le Pen also travelled to Lebanon in February to get a sense of the Syrian crisis. Among her foreign policy objectives Le Pen has called for closer cooperation in Syria with President Bashar al-Assad and a rapprochement with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
She also wants to increase the defence budget to 2 percent of gross domestic product by 2018, up from about 1.78 percent now, and 3 percent by 2022.
(Editing by Tim Cocks and Hugh Lawson)