Central African Republic ceasefire urged as talks begin

Wed Jan 9, 2013 4:17pm EST
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By Jean Rovys Dabany

LIBREVILLE (Reuters) - Mediators urged Central African Republic's government and rebels to sign a ceasefire on Wednesday as talks got under way to end a month-long revolt, but there was little sign either side was ready to make a deal.

The rebels have come within striking distance of the capital Bangui, posing the biggest threat to President Francois Bozize since he took control of the mineral-rich in a rebellion a decade ago.

"I am asking everyone to show restraint and, in this context, we will suggest at the start of the talks that a ceasefire agreement be signed," said Basile Ikouebe, foreign minister of Congo Republic, which is mediating the talks.

The Seleka rebels are demanding that Bozize step down, accusing him of failing to honor a 2007 peace agreement to give insurgents money and jobs in exchange for laying down their weapons.

Seleka representatives circulated a document at the talks in Gabon's capital, Libreville, saying Bozize should face charges at the International Criminal Court over atrocities allegedly committed during the rebellion that brought him to power.

Bozize did not make an immediate comment but on Tuesday accused the rebels of being foreign gunmen hired by unnamed businesses.

Bozize has relied on foreign military help to fend off a series of smaller insurgencies. Regional powers, chief among them Chad, have sent in hundreds of troops to bolster his army this time.

The Seleka rebels took a string of towns, pushing government forces to within 75 km (45 miles) of Bangui before bowing to international pressure to attend the negotiations in Gabon.   Continued...

Central African president Francois Bozize looks on during a news conference at the presidential palace in Bangui January 8, 2013. REUTERS/Luc Gnago