Central African Republic president refuses to leave power, defying rebels

Thu Jan 3, 2013 10:08am EST
 
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By Ange Aboa

BANGUI (Reuters) - Central African Republic President Francois Bozize will refuse to leave power during talks with rebels, his spokesman said on Thursday, rejecting the insurgents' main demand and raising the prospect of a return to fighting.

The Seleka rebel alliance, which has accused Bozize of reneging on a past peace deal, advanced to within striking distance of the mineral-rich nation's capital this week before bowing to international pressure to start negotiations.

A week before those talks were due to start, a spokesman for Bozize's ruling KNK party said the president's departure would not be on the agenda.

"The question of President Bozize leaving ... will be rejected systematically if it is proposed," Cyriac Gonda told Reuters.

"For us, the solution is to form a unity government with everyone," he added, reiterating a previous offer by Bozize to give government posts to the rebels.

The spokesman for the CPSK, one of the rebel groups that form Seleka, said on Thursday a peace deal would not be possible without Bozize's unconditional exit.

The advance by Seleka, an alliance of five armed groups, was the latest in a series of revolts in a country at the heart of one of Africa's most turbulent regions.

CAR remains plagued by poverty and underdevelopment despite its reserves of diamonds, gold and other minerals.   Continued...

 
Soldiers from the Chadian contingent of the Central African Multinational Force (FOMAC) hold up their weapons in Damara, about 75 km (46 miles) north of Bangui January 2, 2013. Rebels in Central African Republic said they had halted their advance on the capital on Wednesday and agreed to start peace talks, averting a clash with regionally backed troops in the mineral-rich nation. REUTERS/Luc Gnago