Central African Republic to hold talks with rebels

image copyrightReuters
image captionTensions have been rising in the capital, Bangui, as the rebels advanced

The government of the Central African Republic and rebels have agreed to hold talks after weeks of clashes.

A regional delegation said no pre-conditions had been set for the talks which will be held in Libreville, capital of neighbouring Gabon.

Officials also said more troops from the Central African Multinational Force (Fomac) would be sent to CAR.

The announcements come after government troops and rebel fighters clashed in the central town of Bambari on Friday.

Rapid gains by the Seleka rebels have raised fears that CAR's capital Bangui could fall within a few days.

Officials from regional blocs including Eccas (the Economic Community of Central African States) confirmed the agreement to the BBC after a two-day mission in Bangui.

They said the talks should start "within the next few days".

Eccas also said that another contingent of soldiers from Fomac would be deployed, but did not specify how many or when the troops would arrive.

More than 500 soldiers from Fomac are already in CAR.

Fears over the deteriorating security situation led to the US evacuating its embassy in Bangui and the UN pull out non-essential staff.

The government and rebels blamed each other for the fresh fighting around Bambari early on Friday.

However, diplomatic sources said the army had tried and failed to retake the town from the rebels.

BBC West Africa correspondent Thomas Fessy says the failure to reclaim the town may have convinced the government that it couldn't set pre-conditions for talks.

Seleka - an alliance of three rebel groups - took Bambari last Sunday having earlier seized the rich diamond mining area around Bria.

CAR President Francois Bozize appealed on Thursday for France - the former colonial power - and the US to help stop the rebel advance.

However, the plea fell on deaf ears.

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault reiterated on Friday that France would only intervene to protect its own nationals there.

Seleka accuses Mr Bozize of failing to honour a 2007 peace deal under which fighters who laid down their arms were meant to be paid.

The rebels have pledged to depose Mr Bozize unless he negotiates with them.

They began their campaign a month ago and have taken several towns in their push towards the capital.

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