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(Reuters) - Fighting raged for the second day on Sunday around the presidential palace in the Chadian capital N'Djamena where rebel forces have surrounded President Idriss Deby and loyalist troops, residents said.
Following are key facts about Chad:
Landlocked Chad became an oil exporter in 2003 with the completion of a $3.7 billion (1.88 billion pound) pipeline linking its oilfields to terminals on the Atlantic coast.
The Doba pipeline, operated by Exxon Mobil with partners Chevron Corp and Malaysia's state run Petronas, pumps around 160,000 barrels a day through Cameroon to the Gulf of Guinea.
Last September, Chad's national oil refiner signed a joint venture deal with China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), parent of PetroChina and China's largest oil and gas producer.
PetroChina says it has found at least 100 million tonnes of oil at a new project in Chad.
China agreed to provide preferential loans to Chad and offer facilities for water and power supplies, the China Daily newspaper reported.
Despite the oil revenues, most Chadians say they have seen no real improvement in their standard of living. The former French colony remains one of the world's poorest countries, ranked 171 out of 177 in the U.N. development index, which uses criteria such as average income, life expectancy and literacy.
Chad was named the most corrupt country in the world along with Bangladesh, in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index for 2005.
In 2006, the World Bank held back around $124 million of loans and froze oil revenues held in a U.N. escrow account until Chad agreed to commit 70 percent of its 2007 budget spending to poverty reduction, and to strengthen the transparency and oversight of oil production.
10.4 million (2007). Northern Chadians are mainly of Berber and Tuareg origins; the Sara, Massa, Mundani and Hakka are predominant in the south. The average life expectancy is 50.4 years.
Muslims (mainly in the north) make up about 50 percent of the population, Roman Catholics 23 percent and traditional African religions 27 percent.
1,259,200 sq km, slightly larger than Scandinavia. Chad is landlocked and bordered by Libya to the north, Sudan to the east, the Central African Republic and Cameroon to the south, and Nigeria and Niger to the west. It is practically rainless and hot throughout the year in the desert north. The south has a rainy season from May to September.
The official languages are French and Arabic. More than 100 local languages are also spoken.
Editing by Kevin Liffey