1 Jan 2013

Offer by president rejected by rebels

9:59 am on 1 January 2013

Rebels in Central African Republic have dismissed an offer by President Francois Bozize to form a national unity government, saying he cannot be trusted.

Rebel spokesman Eric Massi accused the security forces of attacking members of ethnic groups seen as rebel sympathisers and of giving machetes and kalashnikov rifles to civilians.

He said more than 400 people had disappeared in recent weeks. The government has previously denied such claims.

The rebels have seized several towns as they advanced in December. Government troops have pulled back to Damara, 75km from the capital, Bangui, in the face of their advance.

Mr Massi told the BBC by telephone from Gabon, that African peacekeepers must be deployed to protect northerners living in Bangui.

"If they don't do that, we will protect them ourselves," he said.

After talks with African Union chairman Thomas Boni Yayi on Sunday, President Bozize said he would form a coalition government and step down when his term ends in 2016.

He also said he was ready to attend peace talks in Gabon "without condition and without delay".

The BBC reports more troops from the Central African Multinational Force arrived in CAR on Saturday to reinforce a contingent already there.