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U.S. diplomats flee Central African Republic capital

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By McClatchy Newspapers
Friday, Dec. 28, 2012, 9:06 p.m.
 

U.S. diplomats were evacuated from the capital of the Central African Republic on Friday, the State Department reported, because a coalition of rebel groups had swept across the country in recent days, seizing towns and diamond mining areas and threatening to oust the government.

About 40 Americans flew to Kenya, including diplomats, their families and some private citizens.

The State Department said the evacuation was a temporary suspension of activities, not a break in diplomatic ties, and called for peace talks under the auspices of the Economic Community of Central African States, or ECCAS.

French diplomats are staying despite a violent demonstration outside its embassy earlier this week. Dozens of protesters, angry about a lack of help against rebel forces, threw rocks at the French Embassy in Bangui and stole a French flag.

The U.S. military has troops in the country to help local forces try to capture Joseph Kony, leader of the notorious Lord's Resistance Army, who has been indicted for war crimes. U.S. special forces remain in the country, the Associated Press reported.

Residents of Bangui tried to flee by car or by boat across the Ubangi River to the Democratic Republic of Congo, while others scoured markets stocking up on food in case war comes to the capital.

Central African Republic's neighbors agreed late Friday to dispatch a contingent of soldiers to intervene in the troubled country, where a coalition of rebel groups is seeking to overthrow the president of nearly a decade.

Representatives from the 10-nation Economic Community of Central African States meeting in Gabon, though, did not specify how many troops they could contribute nor did they outline how quickly the military assistance would arrive.

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