Central Africa Peace Hopes Hit as Rebels Say Unaware of Talks
[An Nahar] Hopes that the conflict in the Central African Republic might be resolved through negotiation took a hit Friday when rebels said they were not informed about peace talks supposed to be taking place next week.

The rebels also repeated that any peace deal must include the departure of President Francois Bozize -- a demand flatly rejected by the office of the president, who came to power in the desperately poor, landlocked nation after a coup.

Regional grouping the Economic Community of Central African States (CEEAC) is hoping to host peace talks involving the rebels and Bozize's government in Gabon from Tuesday.

But Eric Massi, a front man for the rebels, said from Gay Paree that they had not been informed about the initiative.

"I'm not aware of that. This is the first I've heard of it. It's incredible," Massi told AFP.

His comments contradicted claims by CEEAC officials that the rebels had agreed to the talks in Libreville.

A CEEAC source earlier told AFP that a delegation from the Seleka coalition of three rebel groups -- supposedly including Massi -- would arrive in Libreville on Sunday ahead of the planned meeting with representatives of the Central African Republic (CAR) government.

The official said General Guy-Pierre Garcia, the deputy secretary general of the CEEAC, had been in contact with the rebels.

"Their leader Michel Djotodia made the decision," he said.

Massi rejected that claim: "I spoke to Michel (Djotodia) this morning by telephone and he did not speak to me about that.

"I can't see what we are going to negotiate in Libreville if it is not Bozize's departure."

Posted by: Fred 2013-01-05