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C. Africa leader appeals for help to halt rebel advance

C. Africa leader appeals for help to halt rebel advance

The United States evacuated its embassy in the Central African Republic as the nation's embattled leader appealed for French and US help after rebels seized large swathes of the mineral-rich country.

The United States said Thursday it had evacuated the embassy and temporarily halted its operations. The State Department said it had not broken off diplomatic ties with the beleaguered government, but warned US citizens not to travel to the chronically unstable country while unrest continues.

The United Nations is also pulling out its staff as rebel fighters close in on the capital Bangui, creating alarm among residents.

"We ask our French cousins and the United States of America, the great powers, to help us to push back the rebels... to allow for dialogue in Libreville to resolve the current crisis," President Francois Bozize told thousands of supporters at a rally in Bangui.

"There is no question of allowing them to kill Central Africans, of letting them destroy houses and pillage, and holding a knife to our throats to demand dialogue," said Bozize, who himself seized power in a coup in 2003.

"It is a plot against the Central African Republic, a plot against its people."
Former colonial power France however vowed it would not intervene in the country, which has a chequered history of coups and brutal rule.

Organisers said 10,000 government supporters converged on central Bangui which a rally leader described as "our Tahrir Square".

The protesters blew whistles and waved banners reading "Say No to war" and "No to rebellions".

The rebel coalition known as Seleka -- which means "alliance" in the country's Sango language -- has seized four regional capitals, including a diamond mining hub, since its fighters took up arms on December 10.

While it says it has no plans to move on the capital, a statement last week announcing it had suspended its advance was followed within a day by news of further rebel victories.
President Francois Hollande said Thursday France would not use its troops stationed in the country to interfere in the conflict.

"If we are present, it is not to protect a regime, it is to protect our nationals and our interests, and in no way to intervene in the internal affairs of a country," Hollande said. "Those days are gone."

A French foreign ministry spokesman nevertheless condemned "the continued hostility by the rebel groups" and said the crisis should be resolved through dialogue.


Updated : 2021-04-11 18:56 GMT+08:00