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Peacekeepers To Be Deployed in Central African Republic - 2001-12-04

African leaders have agreed to deploy peacekeepers in the Central African Republic following an escalation of fighting in recent days. The clashes have pitted government forces against mutinous soldiers loyal to sacked army chief Francois Bozize.

Agreement was reached late Monday at the end of a summit in Sudan, where leaders of the Central African Republic, Chad, Sudan, and Zambia met. Representatives of the Libyan government, which maintains troops in the Central African Republic, were also present.

A resolution issued at the end of the summit says the peacekeeping force will be made up of troops from 16 nations in the region. It does not specify how large the force would be, nor does it say when the peacekeepers would be deployed.

Fighting flared in the Central African Republic after President Ange Felix Patasse fired army chief General Francois Bozize on October 26. The army chief was sacked after the government linked him to a failed coup attempt in May.

General Bozize fled to neighboring Chad last month. The Chadian government has refused to extradite him, saying it considers the Patasse government's case against General Bozize more a political matter than a judicial one.

Soldiers loyal to the general have been battling government forces in the north of the Central African Republic, near the Chadian border. Two weeks ago, mutinous soldiers briefly took over two towns, only to be driven away by Libyan-backed government forces.

Concerned that fighting may spread beyond the CAR's borders, leaders in the region have been pressing for a resolution to the conflict. Another meeting is scheduled Tuesday in the Gabonese capital, Libreville.