Central African Republic: President orders army to ease up on offensive

BANGUI, 13 March (IRIN) - Central African Republic President Ange-Felix Patasse said on Wednesday that he had ordered his army ease up on the war against rebels so as to create an atmosphere conducive to a national dialogue on the country's ongoing political crisis.
Speaking a day after a visit to Gabon for talks with President Omar Bongo, Patasse said they had discussed the possibility of holding some of the national dialogue in a country other than the CAR. This is the first time that Patasse has suggested that the dialogue talks could be conducted outside the CAR. Should this materialise, the process would be likely to cost more than the 750 million francs CFA (US $1.2 million) budgeted for it.

On Monday, the coordinator of the dialogue, Bishop Paulin Pomodimo, handed over two buildings that are to serve as a secretariat. Last week China gave the local equivalent of $106,000 towards the planned reconciliation talks.

Before the dialogue opened, Pomodimo told IRIN on Wednesday, the belligerents and some political parties would hold preliminary talks, under the auspices of Sante Egidio - an Italian Roman Catholic body. "It will be a meeting of the main protagonists to prepare the ground for the dialogue," he said.


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