* Leaders say talks should be at home
* French say ceasefire needed before political talks start
* Frustrations over outside meddling grow as crisis simmers
By Crispin Dembassa-Kette and John Irish
BANGUI/PARIS, July 11 Key political and
religious groups in strifetorn Central African Republic on
Friday threatened to boycott peace talks in the neighbouring
Republic of Congo, saying their county's future should be
resolved at home.
French diplomatic sources played down the threat, saying the
talks planned in Brazzaville this month are aimed at bringing
together Christian "anti-balaka" militias and Muslim Seleka
rebels to negotiate a ceasefire which must be in place before
any real political process can be launched.
The former French colony was plunged into violence after the
takeover of the majority Christian country last year by Seleka,
a mostly Muslim rebel force. Its abuses while in power led to
the creation of defence militia and cycles of killing.
The rebels stepped down earlier this year under intense
international pressure but a weak interim government and
thousands of French and African peacekeepers have struggled to
stamp out violence between Muslim and Christian communities.
"The political and religious leaders find it inappropriate
to go to Brazzaville to resolve Central Africa's problems," said
a statement signed by 59 political parties and the three main
"They call on (Congo's President) Denis Sassou N'Guesso to
arrange an inclusive meeting on Central African soil between
Central Africans to reach a lasting solution to this crisis."
The Central African Republic has deposits of gold, diamonds
and other minerals but remains one of the world's poorest
states, with a history of internal strife and the spillover from
conflicts in Sudan, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of
The boycott threat reflects resentment of outside
interference, after a rebellion that was boosted by fighters
from neighbouring Chad and Sudan and a string of failed peace
initiatives brokered by regional powers.
A French diplomatic source said the priority was to get the
anti-balaka and Seleka fighters to sign a deal. "After that real
work can begin on a political process," the source said.
The United Nations, African Union and regional mediator
Sassou N'Guesso are trying to identify credible figures for the
July 21-23 summit in Brazzaville.
Complicating matters, the interim government has said that
nobody with blood on their hands should be part of the talks.
When asked about the threat of a boycott by politicians and
civil society, French officials said it was in their interests
for the anti-balaka and Seleka to strike a deal.
"For several months political parties have done very little,
are not contributing to the process and are already in election
mode, but we tell them if you continue like this there won't be
an election. It's in your interest," the official said.
France has about 2,000 soldiers in the country and some
6,000 African Union troops there will in September be rehatted
as U.N. peacekeepers. The foreign troops have struggled to halt
waves of reprisal killings across a vast area in which a million
people have fled their homes.
The French sources said interim President Catharine
Samba-Panza was starting to show results in efforts to improve
the administration and economy despite some local and
international criticism of her administration's failure to curb
The French sources backed plans for elections to be held in
February 2015. "There is no change to that timeframe for now," a
second French official said.
(Editing by David Lewis and Andrew Roche)