US envoys quit as Rebels close in

Security concerns deepened in the capital of Central African Republic after the US ambassador and other diplomats were evacuated by plane overnight amid fears rebels could try to take the capital.

US officials said about 40 people were evacuated on an US Air Force plane bound for Kenya.

The evacuation came after President Francois Bozize urgently called on former colonial ruler France and other foreign powers to help his government fend off rebels who are quickly seizing territory and approaching the capital.

The UN’s most powerful body condemned the recent violence and expressed concern about the developments.

“The members of the Security Council reiterate their demand that the armed groups immediately cease hostilities, withdraw from captured cities and cease any further advance towards the city of Bangui,” the statement said.

Central African Republic has a history of violent change in government. The current president himself came to power nearly a decade ago in the wake of a rebellion in this resource-rich yet deeply poor country.

Speaking to crowds in Bangui, a city of some 600,000, Mr Bozize pleaded with foreign powers to do what they could.

He pointed in particular to France, Central African Republic’s former colonial ruler. About 200 French soldiers are already in the country, providing technical support and helping to train the local army, according to the French defence ministry.

“France has the means to stop (the rebels) but unfortunately they have done nothing for us until now,” Mr Bozize said.

French President Francois Hollande said that France wants to protect its interests in Central African Republic and not Mr Bozize’s government. The comments came a day after dozens of protesters, angry about a lack of help against rebel forces, threw rocks at the French Embassy in Bangui and stole a French flag.

Paris is encouraging peace talks between the government and the rebels, with the French Foreign Ministry noting in a statement that negotiations are due to “begin shortly in Libreville (Gabon).” But it was not immediately clear if any dates have been set for those talks.

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