CAR president urges rebels to let him finish his term

Tue Jan 1, 2013 8:46am EST
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By Paul-Marin Ngoupana

BANGUI (Reuters) - Central African Republic President Francois Bozize on Tuesday urged rebels threatening to enter the capital to lay down their arms and let him complete the last three years of his term.

Fighters encamped within 75 km (45 miles) of the capital Bangui accuse Bozize of reneging on a 2007 deal to give money and jobs to former rebels, and their leaders are now split over whether to accept an offer of new talks.

The rebellion poses the biggest threat yet to Bozize's near 10-year rule over the former French colony - one of the world's poorest nations despite its rich deposits of uranium, gold and diamonds.

"I repeat that I will not be a candidate in the 2016 election, so let me finish my mandate, I only have three years left," Bozize said in a New Year's Day address broadcast on state radio in the country's Sango language.

Bozize criticized his own army for a string of defeats during the Seleka rebels' three-week advance on the city, and thanked troops from neighboring Chad for reinforcing.

"The army has not played its role. Without the Chadian army we would no longer be here ... I ask forgiveness from all the people in areas occupied by the rebels," he said.

The criticism was a potentially risky move in a country whose history has been marked by a series of coups and mutinies.

The European Union called on the government and rebels to reach a deal and condemned reports of attacks on Bangui residents over the past few days.   Continued...

Soldiers from the Congolese contingent of the Central African Multinational Force (FOMAC) stand in formation as they arrive at an airport in Bangui, December 31, 2012. REUTERS/Luc Gnago