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S. Africa sends troops to Central African Republic

Monday - 1/7/2013, 2:38am  ET

Government security forces in a pickup truck drive past a demonstration held by several hundred merchants calling for peace as negotiators prepare for talks with rebels from the north, in downtown Bangui, Central African Republic Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013. The U.N. Security Council urged rebels in the Central African Republic on Friday to halt their military offensive, withdraw from cities they have seized, and take part in negotiations to find a political solution to the impoverished country's longstanding problems. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

ANDREW MELDRUM
Associated Press

JOHANNESBURG (AP) -- The South African presidency announced Sunday that is sending 400 army troops to Central African Republic to help the country's army as it faces a threat from a coalition of rebel groups.

Sending soldiers to Central African Republic is part of South Africa's efforts "to bring about peace and stability in the region," said the announcement by President Jacob Zuma's office.

Central African Republic's neighboring countries Cameroon, Gabon and Republic of Congo already have sent about 120 troops each to help stabilize the country confronted by the rebellion.

Chad, a longtime ally of President Francois Bozize's government, also has provided hundreds of forces who are fortifying the road to the capital, Bangui, to prevent rebels from reaching the seat of power, a city of 700,000.

The South African National Defense Force troops will "assist with capacity building of the CAR Defense Force and will also assist CAR with the planning and implementation of the disarmament, demobilization and re-integration processes" to deal with the country's rebels, said Zuma's statement.

The rebels had pledged to halt their advance pending peace talks in Gabon that are due to start Tuesday. However, residents say rebels seized two more towns over the weekend, though they are not en route to the capital.

A dozen towns have come under rebel control since the rebel alliance calling itself Seleka began its offensive on Dec. 10.

Negotiations between the rebels and the Bozize government are set to begin in the nearby country of Gabon on Tuesday.

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Associated Press writer Krista Larson contributed from Bangui.


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