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South Africa sends troops to conflict-ridden CAR

South Africa has announced plans to expand its military presence in the Central African Republic (CAR), sending an extra unit of around 400 troops to protect South African soldiers already training CAR personnel.

The South African presidency says it will send additional troops to the Central African Republic (CAR), a day after Seleka rebels reportedly took control of another town in the CAR.

"President Jacob Zuma has authorized the employment of 400 South African National Defence Force (SANDF) personnel to the Central African Republic, to render support in fulfillment of an international obligation of the Republic of South Africa towards the CAR," the presidency's statement said.

Zuma's office also said that the troops would provide capacity-building and planning assistance for the CAR military, and also "protect the SANDF contingent that has been in the CAR for training and capacity building purposes."

Some 200 South African troops were already stationed in CAR prior to Sunday's announcement.

Peace talks planned

CAR leaders and the Seleka rebels in the country are due to hold peace talks in the coming days. The rebels said on Wednesday that they would halt their march on the capital Bangui in order to hold peace talks with President Francois Bozize. Last week, Bozize dismissed several top officials, including his own son, and said he was open to the prospect of a unity government.

Unconfirmed local reports on Saturday suggested, however, that Seleka forces had taken the town of Alindao - encountering no resistance. The Seleka forces, who accuse Bozize of reneging on past peace agreements, launched their offensive early in December.

Bozize had appealed for international help from the US and former colonial power France. Both countries have troops stationed in the CAR for defensive purposes, but they declined to intervene in the conflict.

South Africa similarly made no mention of combat operations in its Sunday statement, calling the extra deployment "one of the efforts that South Africa is making to bring about peace and stability in the region."

Roughly 4.6 million people live in CAR, with the UN estimating that about 316,000 live in the areas so far affected by the conflict.

msh/ipj (AP, dpa)