Central African Republic rebels reject president's concessions

BANGUI Thu Mar 21, 2013 8:53am EDT

Michel Am-Nondokro Djotodia (L), leader of Central African Republic's (CAR) Seleka rebel alliance, stands beside CAR's President Francois Bozize (R) during peace talks with delegations representing the government and the opposition rebels in Libreville January 11, 2013. REUTERS/Levis Boussougou

Michel Am-Nondokro Djotodia (L), leader of Central African Republic's (CAR) Seleka rebel alliance, stands beside CAR's President Francois Bozize (R) during peace talks with delegations representing the government and the opposition rebels in Libreville January 11, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Levis Boussougou

BANGUI (Reuters) - Central African Republic's SELEKA rebel group rejected concessionary decrees from President Francois Bozize as "too little, too late" and demanded on Thursday that he resign.

SELEKA spokesman Colonel Sylvain Bordas responded to state TV broadcasts on Wednesday announcing presidential decrees freeing political prisoners, lifting curfews and banning roadblocks manned by pro-Bozize militia.

"All we ask is for him to now leave power," Bordas told Reuters. "If he does not do so, we will force him out."

There were no immediate reports of clashes but tensions ran high in Bangui over a possible return to fighting which saw the rebels march to the gates of the capital in December.

Mineral-rich CAR's current uprising is the latest in a long line of rebellions that have crippled the country since its independence from France in 1960 and the U.N. Security Council has voiced strong concern over the current situation.

As well as freeing political prisoners and removing checkpoints, the insurgents have demanded the departure of foreign troops, including some 400 South Africans.

They also sought government posts for their civilian and military leaders as part of a power-sharing deal.

The United Nations has condemned rebel attacks in a resurgence of violence in recent weeks and called on all sides to abide by the terms of the peace deal.

Regional nations dispatched troops to try and stabilize the country and helped facilitate peace talks.

In response to the rebel demands, Clayson Monyela, a spokesman for South Africa's foreign ministry, said: "The troops are staying. They aren't going anywhere."

Central African Republic has rich deposits of gold, diamonds and uranium but it remains among the least developed countries in the world. Conflicts in neighboring Chad, Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo have also undermined efforts to stabilize the country.

(Additional reporting by David Dolan in Johannesburg; Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Paul Casciato)

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