Central African Republic Says Rebels Agree to Peace Talks

Rebels from the Central African Republic are willing to enter peace negotiations and abandon a push toward the capital, Bangui, said Interior Minister Josue Banua, citing information he received from a regional body.

Insurgents from the group called Seleka have been fighting for control of territory as they advanced toward the capital since beginning an offensive on Dec. 10. The organization says President Francois Bozize has failed to honor a 2008 peace deal.

“The government has been ready for a long time for talks, now it’s a good thing the rebel leaders have decided to negotiate,” Banua said by phone from Bangui. The rebels indicated they would travel to Libreville, Gabon’s capital, for talks even though no date has been set, he said.

The Economic Community of Central African States, which Banua said gave him the information today, met last month in the Chadian capital, N’Djamena, and developed a “road map” to resolve the crisis, according to a statement on the website of Brussels-based International Crisis Group. That included calling for a cease-fire and encouraging all sides to enter talks under the auspices of Eccas, Crisis Group said.

In a speech yesterday to mark the start of 2013, Bozize urged the militia to disarm and allow him to serve the rest of his term through to the next elections planned for 2016. Last month, he pledged to form a government of national unity.

Seleka spokesman Eric Massi didn’t answer three calls made to his mobile phone or respond to a voice-mail message seeking comment.

Gabon yesterday sent 120 troops to Central African Republic, Ruffin Pacine Odzounga, the country’s defense minister, told reporters in Libreville, Gabon today.

“They are not going to fight anybody,” he said. “They will provide operational support to the peace mission under the mandate of the Economic Community of Central African States.”

France has already sent 150 troops, adding to the 250 it already has in the country, to support the mission and to protect the 1,200 French citizens in the country.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sarah McGregor in Nairobi at smcgregor5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nasreen Seria at nseria@bloomberg.net

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