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French Forces Deployed Against Renewed Attacks in CAR

05 March 2007

After two days of violence between rebels and French patrols in the Central African Republic, the French military is deploying more forces to the troubled area. Kari Barber reports from VOA's West and Central Africa bureau in Dakar.

French military officials tell French media, about 100 additional French soldiers and several paratroopers have been deployed to the Central African Republic, after French forces already there, along with the Central African Republic's army, fought back renewed rebel attacks in the north in recent days.

Rebels on Monday said they were retreating, but preparing new attacks.

French-based human rights activist Sharon Courtoux says any military action should involve international cooperation and should be approved by the people in the countries involved.

"It is a regional problem that has to be looked after by the international community, and I do not think it is proper for individual countries to intervene without their parliament and people having anything to say about it," she said.

France has a bilateral defense treaty with the Central African Republic. It calls for French forces stationed in Bangui to defend the government.

Rebels with the Union of Democratic Forces Coalition attacked the northeastern town of Birao on Saturday. Rebels had occupied the town late last year, until they were pushed out by a government assault, led by French forces and fighter jets.

The United Nations is in negotiations to send peacekeepers to stabilize the border area near Sudan's Darfur region, where conflict has spilled over into both Chad and CAR. But leaders in Chad and Sudan have opposed outside security intervention.

Analyst Alex Vines, with London-based Chatham House, says, controlling the tumultuous, largely ungoverned area where the borders of the three countries meet has been a high concern for the United Nations.

"It is exactly the reason why there have been concerns about trying to send in a U.N. force to the border areas of Chad and Darfur, Sudan, to try to stabilize this area, as this is all part of a dynamic link to the crisis in Darfur that has been swirling across the border," he said.

The Central African Republic government has been negotiating with rebel leaders to reintegrate them into the military.

Authorities in Chad, which also faces rebel movements from near the border with Sudan, have also been using this strategy to quell on-again, off-again insurgencies.

Sunday, Chad's president, Idriss Deby, named former rebel leader Mahamed Nour, who was responsible for a failed assault on the capital, as defense minister.

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