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Regional Bloc Opens Talks on CAR Unrest



Regional leaders have opened talks on the Central African Republic, where political unrest has descended into deadly sectarian violence.

The CAR's interim President Michel Djotodia is meeting with the 10-nation Economic Community of Central African States in the capital of Chad.

His government is denying reports that regional leaders will use the summit to urge Mr. Djotodia to step down.

Some news agencies say ECCAS members have become frustrated with the president's attempts to curb violence that has left more than 1,000 people dead and displaced more than 900,000 others.

On Wednesday, CAR information minister Adrien Poussou told VOA the president planned to use the session to update ECCAS on the security situation in the capital, Bangui.

He said Mr. Djotodia would also discuss transitioning the African intervention force in the CAR into a U.N. peacekeeping force.

Reporter Nick Long is Bangui. He told VOA that the topic of the president's possible resignation came up a week ago.



"Civil society sources in Bangui told me that they've spoken to diplomats, who say there was a meeting of the diplomatic core here in Bangui last weekend. And there, the suggestion of the president resigning was floated. Djotodia was present at that meeting and so it was being put to him."





The CAR slid into chaos after mostly Muslim Seleka rebels toppled former President Francois Bozize last March. Since then, the unrest has spiraled into widespread violence, much of it between ex-Seleka rebels and Christian militias known as anti-balaka.

The violence has hampered efforts by relief workers to help displaced civilians.

In December, an African intervention force was deployed to the CAR to help quell the unrest. Also, former colonial power France has sent about 1,600 troops to the CAR.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Thursday welcomed the ECCAS initiative, saying the CAR is "paralyzed."

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