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A false hope for peace – a warm welcome greeted the African Union’s special envoy when he arrived in the Central African Republic, but within hours his call for a political settlement was rejected by rebels.

After holding talks on Sunday persuading President Francois Bozize to agree to form a unity government, the rebels immediately dismissed the offer and demanded he step down. They said it was a matter of trust.

The rebels have seized several towns as they advance on the capital Bangui. Government troops have now been forced to pull back to Damara.

The conflict began a month ago with a rebel alliance accusing Bozize of failing to honour a 2007 peace deal under which fighters who laid down their arms were meant to be paid.

Regional African leaders who are anxious to restore stability have just sent in more troops to top up a 500 strong peacekeeping force already in the country.

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