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Central African Republic urges international intervention as rebels near capital
December 28, 2012, 9:26 pm

Central African Republic President Francois Bozize. [Getty Images]

Central African Republic President Francois Bozize. [Getty Images]

Central African Republic President Francois Bozize has appealed for international assistance in driving off rebels seeking to unseat his democratically elected government.

“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,” Bozize told thousands of supporters at a rally in the capital Bangui on Thursday.

The rebels, who are believed to be less than 70km from the capital Bangui, comprise an amalgamation of several different factions fighting under the name Seleka Coalition.

In recent weeks they have made major military gains against government forces as they push ahead with trying to remove Bozize, a military officer who seized power in 2003 and has been elected president twice since then.

Analysts say that the rebel gains underscore the instability and extreme poverty that has plagued the country since independence from Paris in 1960 despite possessing vast agricultural, water and mineral resources, including uranium, gold and diamonds. The average monthly income is around $60.

On Thursday, France said it would not do more than protect its embassy, staff and French nationals in the country.

On Friday, the US embassy evacuated its staff and shut down the embassy, but maintained that it was not cutting off diplomatic relations with the troubled African nation.

“This decision is solely due to concerns about the security of our personnel and has no relation to our continuing and long-standing diplomatic relations with the CAR,” the State Department said in a statement.

Although the UN began to withdraw its staff earlier in the week, African leaders continued in their efforts to broker a ceasefire deal.

There were conflicting reports that rebels had temporarily halted their advance on Bangui.

Last week, neighbouring Chad sent in hundreds of troops in an effort to prevent Bangui from falling to rebels.

Source: Agencies