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Monday, November 13, 2006

France to back Central African army in fight against rebels

PARIS (AFP) - France is to aid the Central African Republic's army with logistics and aerial reconnaissance in its fight against rebels in the northeast of the country, according to the French foreign ministry.

"Our help will consist essentially of logistic support and providing intelligence thanks to aerial reconnaissance," spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei said.

"We are concerned about the development of the situation in the northeast of the Central African Republic, which we are monitoring with the greatest attention," he added.

He added that Paris was in close touch with regional organisations, especially the Economic Community of Central African States, which has a small peacekeeping force stationed in the CAR.

After seizing Birao and Ouadda Djalle in the far north of the CAR, the rebel Union of Democratic Forces for the Rally advanced towards the west on Sunday threatening the mining town of Bria, some 600 kilometres (375 miles) northeast of the capital Bangui, according to a government official.

"We are not meeting any resistance from the Central African armed forces," a rebel officer said. "There has been no fighting since Friday and ... many soldiers from the government's army joined us."

The former French colony is one of Africa's poorest countries and government control of the unstable north is tenuous at best. On November 4 the country's parliament called on the international community and France in particular to aid it against the rebels.
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