Central African Republic President Offers Unity Govt to Rebels

Posted December 30th, 2012 at 2:30 pm (UTC-5)
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The Central African Republic's President Francois Bozize says he is willing to enter into a coalition government with the rebels who have taken control of a third of his country and are poised outside the capital.

Mr. Bozize made his comments in a press conference Sunday following his meeting with visiting African Union chief Thomas Yayi Boni.

Earlier in the day, representatives of the Seleka rebel alliance warned they would enter the capital Bangui soon, despite their agreement with Mr. Bozize's government to hold unconditional talks early next month.

Their threat comes three weeks after the start their uprising. In that time, the coalition of three rebel groups has forced the C.A.R. military to retreat to Damara, the last major town on the way to Bangui, about 75 kilometers away.

On Sunday, the streets of the capital were largely empty and residents said they were stockpiling food in the face of a possible rebel onslaught.

The rebel coalition accuses Mr. Bozize of failing to honor a 2007 agreement that included provisions that its fighters would be reintegrated and paid after laying down their arms in a previous uprising.

Late last week, the United States temporarily shut down its C.A.R. embassy and began evacuating staff. The United Nations also evacuated non-essential personnel from the country because of the threat of violence.

The C.A.R. won independence from France in 1960. France usually has about 250 troops in the country as part of a peacekeeping mission, but in recent days, it has increased that number to nearly 600.

Some in the C.A.R. have called on France to do more to counter the rebel threat, but French President Francois Hollande says he only wants to protect his country's interests and nationals, not to intervene in the affairs of the former French colony.