France rules out intervention in CAR conflict By AFP | Thursday, December 27 2012 at 13:46
President Francois Hollande said Thursday that French troops would not interfere in the internal affairs of its former colony the Central African Republic, where rebels have seized a large chunk of territory in recent weeks.
CAR President Francois Bozize called Thursday for help from the US and France in halting the rebel offensive.
“We ask our French cousins and the United States of America, the great powers, to help us to push back the rebels... to allow for dialogue in Libreville to resolve the current crisis,” he said in a speech in the capital Bangui.
"If we are present, it is not to protect a regime, it is to protect our nationals and our interests, and in no way to intervene in the internal affairs of a country, in this case Central Africa," President Hollande said.
"Those days are gone."
His comments came a day after hundreds of protestors demonstrated in front of the French embassy in Bangui, angry over what they say is Paris's inaction in the face of the rebel advance.
France has around 250 soldiers based at Bangui airport providing technical support to a peacekeeping mission run by the central African bloc ECCAS, according to the Defence ministry in Paris.
The ministry said Wednesday that the troops would help ensure the safety of the 1,200 or so French citizens in the country and assist in the reconstruction of the Central African armed forces.
Asked whether France would intervene to help displaced people or refugees President Hollande said that France could only step in "if there is a UN mandate", adding that "this is not the case".
"Generally speaking, we are always in favour of civilians being protected and we will do what is our duty," he said.
Hundreds of demonstrators close to embattled President Francois Bozize had on Wednesday turned on the embassy, protesting France's failure to help push back the rebels sweeping across the resource-rich but poverty-stricken nation.
With the government now largely restricted to Bangui, Chadian troops sent last week to help the increasingly fragile regime are the only real obstacle to rebel forces now sitting about 300km away.
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