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Summit Calls for Committee to Facilitate Dialogue in CAR - 2001-12-06

African leaders meeting in Gabon have wrapped up a summit with a call for renewed dialogue among warring factions in the Central African Republic.

The leaders of central African nations including Gabon, Chad, and the Republic of Congo issued a statement calling for the Central African Republic's government to engage in dialogue with the opposition following months of unrest. The meeting is the latest in a series of talks aimed at preventing the conflict from spreading in the region.

The emergency summit was called after fighting flared in recent weeks between government forces and mutinous soldiers loyal to former army chief General Francois Bozize, who was removed from his post on October 26. The army chief was sacked after the government linked him to a coup attempt in May. The general, once a close ally of President Ange Felix Patasse, denies any involvement in the coup attempt.

General Bozize has since fled to neighboring Chad. Chadian authorities have refused to extradite the general, alleging that the CAR government's case against him is more political than judicial.

Following two days of meetings behind closed doors in the Gabonese capital, Libreville, the leaders of Chad, Gabon, the CAR, and the Republic of Congo issued a statement calling for the creation of a committee to facilitate dialogue. The leaders said the committee will seek to bring forces loyal to General Bozize and the government of President Patasse together to resolve their differences. Leaders are also calling on the Central African government to grant amnesty to those who have been arrested or remain at large following the May coup attempt.

The meeting in Libreville followed an earlier summit in Sudan on Monday. That gathering brought together leaders of the CAR, Chad, Sudan, and Zambia. Libya, which maintains troops in the CAR, also sent a delegation. The gathering in Sudan ended with plans for a peacekeeping force from 16 countries in the region to be deployed in the Central African Republic.

On Wednesday, opposition parties in the CAR issued a joint statement protesting the plans for a peacekeeping force. The opposition groups charge the plan is an attempt by Libya to legitimize and consolidate the presence of its troops on Central African soil.

Libya sent troops to the CAR earlier this year to help the Patasse government put down the May 28 coup attempt.