* Rebels say awaiting regional mediation effort
* France convenes Security Council meeting on CAR
* Rebels demand South African withdrawal
(Adds details, background)
By John Irish and Paul Marin Ngoupana
PARIS/BANGUI, March 20 Rebels in the Central
African Republic called off a truce on Wednesday, accusing the
government of reneging on a January peace deal, but said they
would give regional mediators a chance to settle the dispute
before they resumed fighting.
The Seleka rebel group, which came close to taking the
capital Bangui late last year, said a 72-hour deadline for the
president to honour the terms of the deal had now passed.
"All options are being studied by our military command ...
President (Francois) Bozize ... should draw the right conclusion
and present his resignation," the movement's spokesman Eric
Massi said by telephone in Paris.
The expiration of the deadline meant "the possible
resumption of hostilities," he added. No one was immediately
available to comment from CAR's government.
France's foreign ministry said earlier on Wednesday it had
convened a meeting of the U.N. Security Council to discuss the
fragile situation in its former colony.
The standoff is the latest in a series of rebel incursions,
clashes and coups that have plagued the landlocked nation in the
heart of Africa since its independence in 1960.
CAR remains among the least developed countries in the world
despite rich deposits of gold, diamonds and uranium.
The spill-over of conflicts in neighbouring Chad, Sudan and
Democratic Republic of Congo have undermined efforts to
Seleka - a loose umbrella group of insurgents - made its
advance on the capital last year after accusing the government
of failing to honour an even earlier peace agreement to give its
fighters jobs and cash in exchange for laying down their arms.
Regional powers including Chad and South Africa sent in
troops to bolster the government and helped negotiate the
Seleka says the president had now failed to keep his promise
to send remaining South African troops out of the country and to
incorporate 2,000 rebels into the army.
CAR spokesman Massi said all options were on the table ahead
of the expected arrival in coming days of Chad's President
Idriss Deby and Congo Republic's President Denis Sassou Nguesso
to broker talks in Bangui.
Paris increased the number of its troops in CAR to 600 in
December to protect citizens working there, many of them in the
key mining industry.
French nuclear energy group Areva mines the
country's Bakouma uranium deposit.
The United States said on Sunday it was concerned about
worsening security, urging all sides to implement the ceasefire
(Editing by Andrew Heavens and Daniel Flynn)