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CAR Government Refuses Rebel Demand for Negotiations

13 November 2006

Rebels advancing in the Central African Republic say they want talks with the government, but President Francois Bozize has refused. Mr. Bozize is receiving help from the French military to defeat the insurgency.

Speaking on French radio, a rebel leader said he would stop his forces from advancing toward the C.A.R. capital, Bangui, if the government accepts a national dialogue to address problems of corruption and bad governance.

Mr. Bozize won elections after seizing power in a coup in 2003, but his government has faced increasing criticism of incompetence, due to a shutdown of most government services.

In recent days, the rebels have been seizing small towns in the north of the country, and approaching diamond areas.

A Bozize spokesman, Cyriaque Gonda, tells VOA the dialogue process was already accomplished following Mr. Bozize's rebellion.

"We have organized one of the biggest national dialogues of our history in September 2004 and the outcome is the organization of the election, the institutionalization of all the democratic structures," he said.

Gonda says the government is busy with more urgent matters to help rebuild the Central African Republic, rather than destroy it more.

"We are trying right now [to get] more investors, [we are] getting started with the World Bank and IMF and so forth. We are not just going to spend our time dialoguing," added Gonda.

But a journalist in Bangui, Faustin Bambou, says the political opposition is also pressing the government to accept a new national dialogue.

"Leaders in the political opposition are meeting to discuss in order to point out, to ask again [for] this dialogue," commented Bambou. "The unique way to go to solutions on all these problems in our country is a dialogue."

Mr. Bozize has said he is choosing a military option to crush the rebels.

Officials from the former colonial power France say they will help the C.A.R. army with logistics and surveillance.

France is also helping neighboring Chad beat back rebels there. Chad and the Central African Republic have accused Sudan of backing the rebellions and exporting the conflict in its Darfur region across borders. Rebel leaders deny they are getting outside help or any link between their insurgencies and the fighting in Darfur.

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