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Rebels agree to talks in Central African Republic

Government and rebel factions in the Central African Republic have agreed on unconditional talks aimed at forging a truce. Neighboring countries have meanwhile said they will dispatch troops to intervene.

The agreement to sit down at the table came without pre-conditions, the deputy secretary general of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), Guy-Pierre Garcia, said on Friday.

"No one asked for conditions," said Garcia, adding that talks in the Gabon capital Libreville would take place "without delay,” although a date has yet to be named.

The government of President Francois Bozize is under threat after an insurgency began on December 10.

The president, who has been in power for almost 10 years, on Thursday pleaded for military help from both the US and former colonial power France, amid fears that rebels would move in on the capital, Bangui.

The Seleka coalition of rebel groups, fighting in the northwestern part of the country, has largely been kept in check by government troops in recent years, with some help from foreign governments.

ECCAS on Friday said it would deploy a contingent of soldiers to the country, although the number of soldiers to be sent was not immediately clarified.

France - which intervened on behalf of the government using airstrikes in 2006 - already has forces present in the country. However, Paris has said they would protect French interests rather than those of Bozize. Security was reinforced at the French Embassy on Friday after protesters threw rocks at the building.

rc/ccp (AFP, dpa, Reuters)