Central African Republic president says ready to share power with rebels

Sun Dec 30, 2012 11:40am EST
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By Ange Aboa and Paul-Marin Ngoupana

BANGUI (Reuters) - Central African Republic's embattled President Francois Bozize said on Sunday he was ready to share power with the leaders of a rebellion that has swept aside government defenses to within striking distance of the capital.

The three-week old onslaught by the rebel alliance Seleka has highlighted the instability of the landlocked former French colony, which remains one of the least developed nations on the planet despite its rich deposits of uranium, gold and diamonds.

"I am ready to form a government of national unity with Seleka to run the country together, because I am a democrat," Bozize told a news conference following a meeting with African Union Chairman Thomas Yayi Boni in the capital Bangui.

He added that he was ready to attend peace talks that are being organized by regional leaders in Libreville, Gabon, "without condition and without delay".

It was unclear if the offer would defuse a crisis that has posed the biggest threat to Bozize's nearly 10 years in charge of the country, nestled in the midst of a turbulent region known for wars and haunted by armed groups.

A spokesman for the rebels said the group would consider Bozize's offer, but added its aim was not to join the existing government.

"I take note of his proposals. We need to meet to study them," Seleka spokesman Eric Massi told France 24 television. He said the rebels also wanted to see what guarantees would be made to them.

"Know that Seleka's aim today is not to enter into a government but to allow the people of Central African Republic to be able to drive the country towards development and self-fulfillment," he said.   Continued...

Central African Republic President Francois Bozize (C) speaks to a crowd of supporters and anti-rebel protesters during an appeal for help, in Bangui December 27, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer