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US embassy evacuated as rebels surge in Central African Republic

The turmoil in the landlocked African nation has prompted calls for France to intervene militarily in its former colony. 'Those days are gone,' said French President François Hollande.

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“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 [Gabon] to resolve the current crisis,” President Bozize said.

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“There is no question of allowing them to kill Central Africans, of letting them destroy houses and pillage, and holding a knife to our throats to demand dialogue,” he said.

The rebel fighters are a coalition known as Seleka that have captured four regional cities and towns, including a diamond mining hub, since taking up arms on Dec. 10. They accuse Bozizé of not upholding peace deals meant to end several regional uprisings.

The conflict has posed yet another challenge to French foreign policy, particularly in its former African colonies. There are around 250 French military advisers in the CAR, but French President François Hollande said yesterday that troops wouldn’t get involved. "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," President Hollande was quoted by AFP as saying. "Those days are gone."

That’s a contrast from Hollande’s predecessor, Nicholas Sarkozy, who took a more aggressive approach, sending French military troops, for example, to help oust Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo amid fighting that followed a disputed presidential election. French jets played a major role in the air campaign in Libya that ultimately led to Col. Muammar Qaddafi’s defeat.

Landlocked and poor despite substantial mineral wealth, including uranium, the CAR has been unstable for most of its 52 years of independence. It is also sandwiched between countries that have been roiled by war for years, often fueled by access to mineral and natural resources. The Democratic Republic of Congo has seen on- and off-again war involving as many as nine other countries and other armed groups for nearly two decades. The fighting in South Sudan predates its independence in 2011, a struggle involving oil resources, among other things.

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