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Standoff Continues in Central African Republic - 2001-11-06

A standoff between rival army factions in the Central African Republic capital, Bangui, is now in its fourth day. International bodies are trying to mediate the crisis, and Libya has flown soldiers into Bangui to protect the country's president.

A delegation from the Organization of African Unity plans to begin mediation talks later Tuesday in Bangui. A U.N. negotiator, General Lamine Cisse, has been holding talks with the rival factions since Saturday.

The situation remains tense in Bangui, with reports of sporadic and recurring gunfire in the northern half of the city. However, life in the rest of Bangui returned to normal Monday.

The standoff began early Saturday, when government soldiers, acting on an arrest warrant, tried to take former Army Chief of Staff General Francois Bozize into custody in connection with a failed coup attempt last May.

However, soldiers belonging to the general's Gbaya ethnic group blocked the access to his north Bangui home and prevented his arrest. Since then, an unspecified number of regular army units have defected and switched their allegiance to General Bozize, who is popular among soldiers.

The general's backers have taken up position at various sites in the northern half of Bangui. They even fired mortars at President Ange-Felix Patasse's mansion, Monday, but failed to reach their target.

Meanwhile, Libya - which already has troops in the Central African Republic - has sent in an additional 80 soldiers to support President Patasse.

The president dismissed General Bozize as army chief without explanation on October 26. The government also banned the activities of a Christian church of which the general is a member.

A commission investigating the May 28 coup attempt issued an arrest warrant against General Bozize on Friday, after stashes of weapons were alleged to have been found in three different private homes in Bangui.

General Bozize had been credited with putting down the May uprising by soldiers allied with former president General Andre Kolingba.