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Israel and Chad, a Muslim country in the Sahara region of Africa, are working to renew their diplomatic relations after Chad cut ties with Israel 33 years ago.

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom was to meet with Chad's President Idriss Deby on Tuesday but the latter cancelled at the last minute and decided to rescheduled the meeting in several weeks. Chad also proposed sending a delegation to Israel.

Israeli businessman David Kimche, former director general of the Foreign Ministry and once deputy director of the Mossad, mediated the contact between Israel and Chad.

Kimche now works as a representative of the Scandinavian Milcom cellular company that is seeking to operate in Chad. In August 2004, he had attempted to arrange a visit by then Foreign Ministry Director General Yoav Biran to Chad's capital city of N'Djamena. Kimche met with Chad's Foreign Minister Nagoum Yamassoum but nothing came of the meeting.

Kimche refused to discuss the matter.

Israeli businesspeople have been operating in Chad for a number of years. One of them, Gabi Peretz of the Air Defense company, had negotiated the sale of a number of Soviet-made helicopters from an eastern European nation to Chad's military. The deal was worth several million dollars.

In the 1980s, Chad was engulfed in a civil war and Israeli military experts provided advice to the then president. Israel Defense Forces Major General Avraham Tamir even visited Chad at the time.

Today, refugees from the conflict in the Darfur region of adjacent Sudan are fleeing into Chad.

Haaretz was made aware of the renewed ties between Israel and Chad a number of days ago but acceded to a Foreign Ministry request not to publish the information so as not to harm the relations.